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Riddle Me This: The Daisho-reki Calendar

 
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Tatsunoshi
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:16 am    Post subject: Riddle Me This: The Daisho-reki Calendar Reply with quote
While reading Constantine Vaporis's "Voices of Early Modern Japan", I ran across a link he included to Japan's National Diet Library. It featured some examples of basic calendars that were generally used by commoners, usually doing little more than showing which of the 12 (or 13) months of the year were 'long months' (30 days) or 'short months' (29) since these changed from year to year. These calendars were called Daishou-reki (long-short calendars...I'm assuming using the same character that refers to the long/short swords of the samurai). Usually these calendars featured some sort of amusing artwork that hid the months within it, and often they were used for satirical purposes. Anyway, the National Diet site has a selection of six of them and challenges you to 'unriddle' them by finding the months and occasionally the year. For those of us following the calendar threads, it's a fun exercise and I don't think we've posted them on the board before (or at least a search didn't turn them up).

Unriddle the Daishou-reki Calendar

And yeah, I know this is Edo period, but since all of our calendar threads are in this forum, I figured this was the place for it.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
As some of you may know, the first full-color (nishiki-e) woodblock prints, produced by Suzuki Harunobu in 1765, were precisely this type of e-goyomi, or "picture calendar."

He was commissioned by a poetry & prints appreciation club to design calendar prints for them - this sort of daishô-reki design must have already existed previously. Given the exclusive nature of this print run, Harunobu was freed up to use more expensive materials - thicker paper, thicker pigments, cherry wood blocks instead of the other woods (mainly catalpa or kisasagi) used previously. He also innovated with better systems for registration marks, and a greater number of blocks, allowing for a more multi-colored print. (Up until then, woodblock prints generally used only three colors at most)

These first runs of e-goyomi prints made for the poetry club must have been seen as quite lavish and special for their time. But, very soon afterwards, Harunobu somehow managed to incorporate all these innovations and yet make the prints affordable. It was not long at all before multi-colored prints, on better paper, with better pigments, printed with multiple cherry blocks (one block is required for each color in the design), were as affordable as a bowl of noodles.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
As some of you may know, the first full-color (nishiki-e) woodblock prints, produced by Suzuki Harunobu in 1765, were precisely this type of e-goyomi, or "picture calendar."

By precisely this type, do you mean they were dai-shô calendars that gave month lengths? Or were they more generally pictures with themes relating to the year's calendar? Can you give a link to any of his e-goyomi? Did he make one a year for this group for a period of time?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
In many e-goyomi prints, such as those designed by Harunobu, the numbers of which months were the long and short ones were hidden in the images alongside the kanji for big 大 and small 小. As Tatsu describes in the original post (and in the link linked to), there were a variety of different techniques or methods used. Sometimes the zodiac character might be substituted for strict kanji numerals, or other sort of tricks might be used.

Harunobu produced many e-goyomi designs, actually, not just one a year, in the few years between 1765 and his death in 1770.

One example, for the year 1765 (Meiwa 2) can be found here. If you click on "Zoom" and look closely, you can see kanji including 四、七、九、十一、and 十二 incorporated into the design of the green kimono worn by the woman on the left, alongside the character 小, for "small" (or in this case, "short"). This is quite typical of the way such e-goyomi were done.

(Salter, Rebecca. Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive Slips to Playing Cards. p48.)

The shogunate, however, only permitted a select few publishers to officially/legally publish calendars. Thus, e-goyomi designed by Harunobu, or most other ukiyo-e artists, were illegal. This is often cited as a key reason for the numbers being hidden within the designs in this way; many art historians writing about them also write, however, that consumers of these calendar prints would have gotten a special enjoyment out of figuring out the puzzle. This is a common theme in discussions of ukiyo-e designs - combinations of references to various classical stories, historical figures, kabuki plays, etc. are seen as providing a degree of enjoyment to the viewer who tries to puzzle out what's being shown.

In any case, because of the illegality of other publishers producing calendar prints, many of Harunobu's (and others') e-goyomi designs were reprinted without the hidden calendrical information. So, if you go and search for "e-goyomi" or "calendar prints" on, for example, a museum's online collections database, you're likely to find prints that lack this hidden calendrical information.

(http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/egoyomi)
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for bringing this up. I will put a link to this thread in the calendar sticky .

After 1685 the shogunate did the calendar calculations and checked the content of all the licensed calendars, so it is probably true that the daisho calendars were technically illegal.

A Japanese book I have says taisho calendars started to become popular in Genroku and Kyoho periods, and shows one from Kyoho 16 (1731) with the numbers for big and little in the kimono of two women.
 
"It has been argued that because these independent egoyomi were in defiance of the law, the calendar markings were hidden in an attempt to obscure the true purpose of the prints. (the artic.edu link above)" However, the "true purpose" of the prints can hardly have been to give calendar information; I cannot think that the artists set out to make a calendar and but decided the information had to be hidden. These prints are no substitutes for official calendars--they simply do not have the minimum of information that people would want, such as the cyclical day of the first day of the months or the solar terms or minimal divination information. (See the minimal "post calendar" at http://www.ndl.go.jp/koyomi/e/history/pic08_lar.html ) So I think that the art historians were right that the "hidden" aspect of the designs were for consumer enjoyment more than to really hide the purpose. (And they were not very hidden anyway.) The official vendors are not likely to have complained. Surely anyone who could afford a ukiyo print would have already purchased an official calendar to really use.

As to why later versions of prints usually did not have have the hidden calendar information, I think it unlikely that it was because they were illegal. After all, if the shogunate decided to prosecute, I doubt that the fact that they had changed old calendars (and not current ones) would help them much. In fact, it would make it worse, proving that they knew it was illegal. Rather, I would guess it is because the daisho reki were dated to a particular year, and an inclusion of the calendar material in later versions would proclaim they were out of date. If a modern artist wanted to republish his artwork designed originally as part of a calendar, wouldn't he normally put it in a different form rather than simply republishing a calendar from several years before?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
Rather, I would guess it is because the daisho reki were dated to a particular year, and an inclusion of the calendar material in later versions would proclaim they were out of date. If a modern artist wanted to republish his artwork designed originally as part of a calendar, wouldn't he normally put it in a different form rather than simply republishing a calendar from several years before?


Oh, god. Why did that not occur to me? Yes, that seems the obvious logical explanation.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
One thing that Lordameth said that impressed me was "Harunobu produced many e-goyomi designs, actually, not just one a year, in the few years between 1765 and his death in 1770." Checking, this means what it seems to mean, that Harunobu produced all his many nishiki prints in only five years!

Daisho calendars were not only visual, but oral. Most of the early daisho pictures had poems attached:
One poem from 1697 is
大庭をしろくはく霜師走かな
Ôniwa wo shiroku haku shimo shiwasu kana
(The frost priest, scurrying around, sweeps the large garden white!)
大[月は]二(ni)は四(shi)六(roku)八(ha)九(ku)霜[月=11月] 師走[=12月]
The long 大 months are 2,4,6,8,9,11,12.

These riddles invite questions:
Q1 One famous Daisho is this: 西向くサムライ.
This is a bit tricky, but very interesting. What months are referred to? Which calendar is it talking about? (Hint: these are short months)


Another type of e-goyomi 絵暦 is very different: a relatively full calendar from the Tohoku expressed all in pictures. It is said they were for illiterates. There is an example on the ndl site
http://www.ndl.go.jp/koyomi/e/history/pic06_lar.html

This has a lot of information, including the dates of certain cyclic days and some solar terms.

Q2 This should be easy: what was the significance of 1/2 that year?

Q3 Let's review! What was the order of L/S (or 大/小) months that year? (For example LLSSLLSSLLSS.)

Can you figure out what any other symbols mean?


Last edited by Bethetsu on Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:17 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
Harunobu produced all his many nishiki prints in only five years!


It's true! I strangely have never heard/seen much about his work prior to 1765, but, Suzuki Harunobu did indeed produce all of his full-color nishiki-e prints within that five or six year span.

One of his students, Suzuki Harushige, continued to produce works with Harunobu's signature, though, for a short while.

As long as we're on the subject, for those who don't know, the famous but mysterious Sharaku only produced prints for about 10 months in 1794-95. Amazingly productive, but only for a very short time.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q1 One famous Daisho is this: 西向くサムライ.
This is a bit tricky, but very interesting. What months are referred to? Which calendar is it talking about? (Hint: these are short months)


It's talking about the Western calendar. "The Samurai Facing West" is read as Nishimuku Samurai. So it's talking about short months-ni=2/February, shi=4/April, mu=6/June, ku=9/September. Samurai can be expressed in kanji as 士, and breaking this into strokes you have 十 and 一, or ten and one=11 (November). So you can remember all the short months with this little passage.


Bethetsu wrote:
Q2 This should be easy: what was the significance of 1/2 that year?


Not sure what you're looking for here. Is this 'one half'? 1-2? First month-second month?

Bethetsu wrote:
Q3 Let's review! What was the order of L/S (or 大/小) months that year? (For example LLSSLLSSLLSS.)

Can you figure out what any other symbols mean?


Using the animal symbols at the top of the page before each month and the sexagenary cycle, I came up with (in 1-12 order):

SLSSLSLLLSLS

I see this corresponds to the designs around the months-the ones that have a line passing 'over' them are short months, the ones that have the line leading into them are 'long'.

Many of the symbols look related to farming-like the little scythes probably represent days to harvest? The circles look to be representing phases of the moon. Not really sure what the "chopsticks" and "x's" at the bottom of each month are, although they intermittently rise in value.


Last edited by Tatsunoshi on Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
It's true! I strangely have never heard/seen much about his work prior to 1765, but, Suzuki Harunobu did indeed produce all of his full-color nishiki-e prints within that five or six year span.
A little Kodansha/Tuttle book of his prints that I have wrote "The early prints of Harunobu show hardly any of he distinguishing features that mark his subsequent work. In fact, these early prints were not much more than outright imitations of Kiyomitsu. In examining these forty-odd prints of his earlier twelve-year period, it is hard to believe that it could have been the same artist who produced over six hundred prints of superb quality in the five years following the spring of 1765. "
So the calendar is important in the history of Japanese art!Very Happy
Quote:
As long as we're on the subject, for those who don't know, the famous but mysterious Sharaku only produced prints for about 10 months in 1794-95. Amazingly productive, but only for a very short time.
I was lent a book of his prints. Those were even more amazing I think.

Tatsunoshi wrote:
西向くサムライ.
It's talking about the Western calendar. "The Samurai Facing West" is read as Nishimuku Samurai. So it's talking about short months-ni=2/February, shi=4/April, mu=6/June, ku=9/September. Samurai can be expressed in kanji as 士, and breaking this into strokes you have 十 and 一, or ten and one=11 (November). So you can remember all the short months with this little passage.
Right. Did you figure that out, or did you know it?
It should be noted that unlike normal Daisho it does not indicate if they are short or long months.

On egayomi
Quote:
Not sure what you're looking for here. Is [1/2 ] 'one half'? 1-2? First month-second month?
Sorry. 2nd day of the first month.

Quote:
What was the order of L/S (or 大/小) months that year?
SLSSLSLLLSLS
I see this corresponds to the designs around the months-the ones that have a line passing 'over' them are short months, the ones that have the line leading into them are 'long'.
Yes. I hadn't noticed that about the lines.
Quote:
Many of the symbols look related to farming-like the little scythes probably represent days to harvest? The circles look to be representing phases of the moon. Not really sure what the "chopsticks" and "x's" at the bottom of each month are, although they intermittently rise in value.
With the help of Nengo Calc I found the meanings of some of the cyclical days. For instance, the sleeping monkey is on the day of the monkey 庚申, a night you are not supposed to sleep on. But I was interested enough to get out a (the?) book on these calendars from the library. The "chopsticks" represent 壬子 days, the start of a 12-day bad luck period (hassen 八専 and hashi ichizen are pronounced similarly)and the Xs (batsu) are 甲申, which were the start of another 10-day bad-luck period、jippô gure十方暮. Some of the others are obvious, though the beautiful horse of the first month seems to have the wrong number.

The scythes are indeed "ine-kari-kichi", lucky days for harvesting rice. The round basket in the 3rd month is a good time to sow. In 2nd & 8th month, the 5 mochi are the start of Higan.
The loaves and fishes in the 8th month are 210 days after the start of spring 立春, from which most weather days were calculated.

Q4 What started on 5/13? It now is determined after the fact, but then it too was calculated from the start of spring.
However, thinking about the Japanese calendar, do you think the circles are really phases of the moon?

The Tayama calendars were made by a family in Tayama village on the border of Aomori, Iwate, and Yamagata, in the former Nabu 南部 domain. Okada Yoshiro suggested that the mountain farmers had especial need of a good calendar. The earliest we have is from 1783. They were based on the yearly Ise calendars. Calendars normally went on sale on 11/1, so these would have been made in a short time after that. These, especially the later ones, use stamps for much of the work. Apparently the latest that exists (in copy) is 1861.
There are also picture calendars from Morioka盛岡暦, probably inspired by the Tayama calendars, but very different in style and more for fun. The numbers are in shapes like domino numbers, and the words are more rebus. These were published from about 1810 and still are, as souvenirs, though in early Meiji they could not because of the official calendar laws.

Here is another question on Daisho:
Q5 About how many different calendar patterns (LSLS….) were there in the period from 1685 to 1872 (the period of the Edo-calculated calendars)?
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Sorry. 2nd day of the first month.


Hmmmm.....looks like an oni covering his face, or someone pulling on a mask...guess it could be Setsubun, since that kind of describes it, and it's supposed to cleanse the evil of the previous year. First month second day sounds very close to 'February 3', which is when it's celebrated now.


Bethetsu wrote:
Q4 What started on 5/13? It now is determined after the fact, but then it too was calculated from the start of spring.
However, thinking about the Japanese calendar, do you think the circles are really phases of the moon?


One would presume it's some sort of Cherry Blossom Festival, although June seems a bit late. Maybe because it's in the mountains and they would be blooming later...

Circles=Moon...D'oh! No, they aren't, since the new moon is usually on or just before the first day of the month...not the 23rd, 25th, etc. So what might they be?

Bethetsu wrote:
Q5 About how many different calendar patterns (LSLS….) were there in the period from 1685 to 1872 (the period of the Edo-calculated calendars)?


Well, this is just a guess...there are about 188 years there, and I'd bet there might be 150 different combos or more, since they tended to like to use a pattern that hadn't been used before.

Thanks for the info on the 'chopsticks and x's'.

I figured out the 'Samurai Facing West' poem, although I needed some help with November.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Hmmmm.....looks like an oni covering his face, ...guess it could be Setsubun, since that kind of describes it, and it's supposed to cleanse the evil of the previous year. First month second day sounds very close to 'February 3', which is when it's celebrated now.
Finally. Yes, it is an oni crying because he was pelted with beans on Setsubun.
Quote:
Q4 What started on 5/13?
One would presume it's some sort of Cherry Blossom Festival, although June seems a bit late. Maybe because it's in the mountains and they would be blooming later...
Mid June is way to late for cherry blossoms, even in the mountains. Actually these are plum fruits. You can try looking at words in a dictionary that start with 梅 (plum).
On 12/13 we see icicles for the start of cold. 寒入り, 小寒.
Quote:
Circles=Moon...D'oh! No, they aren't, So what might they be?
The full circles (said to represent the summer sun) are the starts of the four seasonal Doyô periods 土用. The ox-day of during the summer Doyô, coming up Friday, is best known as the day you are supposed to eat eel (unagi).
The "half-moons" are the equinox solar terms.
The semi-circle is the start of hangeshô 半夏生, "half-summer-life" one of the 72 climates 候, about 11 days after the summer solstice.
Of course, days by the lunar calendar (as the sekku, 5/5, 9/9, etc.) did not have to be marked because they were on the same lunar date each year. There was a 40% lunar eclipse on 2/16 of that year, though.
The event on 8/1 must be a solar eclipse. The NASA page says it was annular, and that may be indicated by the picture.

Quote:
About how many different calendar patterns (LSLS….) were there in the period from 1685 to 1872 (the period of the Edo-calculated calendars)?
Well, this is just a guess...there are about 188 years there, and I'd bet there might be 150 different combos or more, since they tended to like to use a pattern that hadn't been used before.
One book listed 142, most of which of course occurred only once in this period. Two patterns were used 5 times. But I think you may have forgotten the starting point of the patterns. There are over 4,000 (exactly 2^12) combinations of 12 大and 小, and double that for 13, but they were not all available. "They tended to like to use a pattern that hadn't been used before" misses the mark, as the pattern for a year had nothing to do with their likes.

Quote:
I figured out the 'Samurai Facing West' poem, although I needed some help with November.
Good for you! Very Happy

You worked very hard on your post.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
"They tended to like to use a pattern that hadn't been used before" misses the mark, as the pattern for a year had nothing to do with their likes.


Looking around, it does seem to have been a factor, at least according to this page.

"The pattern of long and short months changes from year to year, for religious reasons, and in fact there was a bias toward using a pattern which had not previously been used (although some patterns were re-used)."

So it seems according to this that while it was primarily set up for religious reasons, they would use a new pattern if given the option.

So my question here is, are the month lengths determined solely by the predictions of when the full moon falls? Is the first day always the day of the full moon? I've read some sources that state that sometimes the first would be done on the day after the full moon. This of course would have a big impact on the patterns, giving more leeway to the people making them.


OK, so the 'blossoms' on 5/13 are actually referring to 'tsuyu' (plum rain), or rainy season, in Japan. Very interesting, since I always associated plum blossoms with late winter.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
OK, so the 'blossoms' on 5/13 are actually referring to 'tsuyu' (plum rain), or rainy season, in Japan. Very interesting, since I always associated plum blossoms with late winter.
As I mentioned, those are not plum blossoms, but plum fruits, and they are picked in June.

Quote:
"The pattern of long and short months changes from year to year, for religious reasons, and in fact there was a bias toward using a pattern which had not previously been used (although some patterns were re-used)."

So it seems according to this that while it was primarily set up for religious reasons, they would use a new pattern if given the option.

Now you are really making me jump way ahead, but here it goes.

First, I must correct a statement you made in your last two posts, that the start of the month is determined by the full moon. It is the new moon.

Looking at the link you gave. O tempora! O mores! An MIT student posts a lot of garbled material on his page, and Harvard Press publishes a whole book of garbled material in its Japan Encyclopedia. Presumably the MIT student took Japanese classes at Harvard, but MIT doesn't seem to be training its students to be careful in what they write.

OK. First, Kanroku did not create the Genka calendar, which had been around for over 150 years. He taught Japanese how to calculate it. Perhaps it is being picky, but Japan did not change to a 365-day, but a 365/66-day calendar.

The nengo were used only intermittently before 701,not constantly after 672 as was discussed in an earlier thread.

"The yearly cycle started with the moon in Pisces, in February and March". That about matches the statement on another page "On years in which the sun still hasn’t entered the Fish by February 19, a thirteenth, intercalar month is added, bringing the year to 390 days in number." Both are based on statements just picked up without understanding and regurgitated garbled. But at least the MIT explanation of intercalary months further down is better.

Now, for the present topic:
"The pattern of long and short months changes from year to year, for religious reasons." Well, since God did make the pattern of long and short months change from year to year, perhaps you can say it changed for religious reasons, but I don't think that is what he is talking about.
The pattern of natural months is very irregular, and the historical tendency in China was from complete observation, gradually to regularization, then to irregularity again by skill in calculating.
Going backwards in time, the Edo-period calendars seem to have been based solely on calculations of the new moon. (Though I read in a reliable source that they changed the date when necessary so lunar eclipses would be on the 15th. But I know the Kansei calendar didn't do that.) If they wanted a variety of calendars, why would they have used the same pattern five different times (1685, 1747, 1783, 1836, 1845) while almost all patterns were used only once or twice?

From about 1487 to 1684 there do not seem to have been any changes to the calculations of the procedures, though the calendar procedure used in 862-1684 always postponed the start of the month by a day if the new moon was after 6:00 pm. But that would not make yearly calendars more irregular. Between 860 and 1468 some changes were made to regularize a calendar. They followed the Chinese aversion to having 4 long months in a row as too irregular. Also, they changed the calendars when necessary so they could have a particular court ceremony every 19 years (Metonic cycle). After 1468 they continued to have the ceremony, but the schedule became naturally irregular. There are also some other early cases where the calendar does not seem to match calculations, some having to do with the Metonic cycle or eclipses, but for many of them we do not know why. Perhaps some were calculation mistakes.

But I don't believe I have ever come across a statement that the calendar makers tried to make patterns different, and I have seen no evidence of it.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The past few days I have been in Tohoku. We drove up to Morioka in Iwate, then drove over to the coast, and went down along the devastated coast from Taro in Miyako 宮古市to Rikuzen Takata陸前高田, visiting friends involved in long-term volunteer work. I am planning to write something on the trip for the San no Maru, but here I will just briefly describe central Takata. It is a wide flat plain with roads and house foundations, and a few scattered large buildings standing. Some were obviously wrecked, others you had to look at the windows to see the condition. We parked the car and walked towards what appeared to be a school on somewhat higher ground about a mile (1.5 km) away. When we got there we could see the elementary school was back in use. We heard it that only its first floor was flooded. But you look out towards to coast, you see virtually nothing. I don't know if the district will ever be considered safe or practical enough to build in.

Well, as to why I mention my trip here, when we decided to go to Morioka, of course I remembered the "blind calendar" I mentioned above (between Q4 and Q5) and wondered if it was indeed still being made. I settled the question by picking up one up at a souvenir shop. Except for the dates, it is identical to the one for Showa 59 (1984) at http://www11.ocn.ne.jp/~mekura/konjyaku.htm
(The dice represent months.) They use to cut wood blocks every year, but apparently since at least 1972 they have used a metal block for the pictures and just changed dates and the animals.
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