“Shiori” Changing as Time Passes
April has a number of events and memorial days associated with books, such as World Book and Copyright Day, Children’s Reading Day and Library Memorial Day. What’s essential to reading is shiori or the bookmark. The origin of the Japanese bookmark is said to be the sen, made of ivory and brought into Japan from China along with Buddhist canons. During the Nara and Heian eras, a tool made of wood or bamboo called “kefusan” was used.
It was in the Edo era when these tools started to be called “shiori.” It is believed that it was a homophone referring to a tree branch intentionally broken and used as a trail marker through steep mountains that began to include the meaning of the bookmark.
Paper shiori was invented during Meiji and widely prevailed during Taisho. Throughout these eras, shiori was used as a marketing tool. The artworks used for them change with the passage of the time. For example, designs to lift the public spirit for the war were adopted during the wartime, and after the war those to celebrate international events were common.
With the advance of digital technology, reading through media other than paper is increasingly popular these days, which makes us wonder how shiori will change in the future.