Bold Designs Decorating Sake Barrels
The Original Design for the “Tama no Izumi” Sake Barrel Cover

Bold Designs Decorating Sake Barrels The Original Design for the “Tama no Izumi” Sake Barrel Cover
  • Period: 1884
  • Material: Paper
  • Dimensions: Height: 47cm, Width: 65cm

To protect the wooden barrels containing sake during transportation, they are wrapped in rice-straw matting called “komo.” When a barrel is wrapped in straw this way, it is referred to as “komokaburi.” When the komo shows the trademark or brewery design, it is referred to as “shirushi gomo.” Over time, the komo was given increasingly colorful designs, becoming more and more decorative.

The photo shows a template for a shirushi gomo with the brand logo on it that would decorate the front of the barrel. The “Tama no Izumi,” or “Jewel of the Fountain” brand that has been used since Gekkeikan's founding in 1637 is shown large and in the center. Peaches floating in a stream are shown behind the brand name, and on the left side it reads “Aiji manpo wo uru,” while on the right is a vertical flag that says “Best Sake in Japan.” The design draws on motifs from the famous Japanese fairy tale, Momotaro, in which a child born from a peach carried a flag saying “Best in Japan” as, accompanied by a dog, a pheasant, and a monkey, he vanquished the demons of Onigashima (Devils Island). There were also designs used just for specific retailers, and a single brewery would have a number of different templates with varying designs and labels.

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