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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on September 20, 2013
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition: September 2013, Issue 1

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 1]
September 20, 2013
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival: JUGOYA (The Fifteenth Night)
2. Seasonal Taste: SATOIMO (Eddoe)
3. Seasonal Flowers: SUSUKI (Japanese Pampas Grass)
4. News from JTCO

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Feeling moon light: JUGOYA (The Fifteenth Night)

"Wait till the moon comes out to guide your way back
As the road in the evening gloom is hard to walk
So that I can see you off a little longer in the moonlight"

This is one of the poems from Japan's oldest anthology called
Manyoshu. This is a poem that describes a woman seeing off her lover
after a rendezvous, written by Ohoyakeme, Vol. 4-709 in the 7-8th

Nowadays, the moon tends to be obscured by glittering
neon signs in cities like Tokyo, however, the beauty of the full
moon in autumn is prominent especially in the clear air after the
humid summer.

In autumn, there is a custom which celebrates the beautiful moon,
usually on a full moon night. The old style calendar was used until
the end of the 19th century in Japan, according to which autumn was
July, August and September. People appreciate and celebrate the
harvest moon on August 15th, which is mid September in the modern
calendar. It is known as JYUGOYA (The fifteenth night), the most
beautiful moon in mid autumn. In China, this custom has been passed
on from generation to generation in which people eat mooncakes with
family and friends on to this day. This Chinese custom was
introduced into Japan when the Japanese Missions to Imperial China
called "Kentoshi" learned it and brought it back to Japan in the
7-9th century. Nobilities in the Heian period floated miniature
boats in the garden pond rather than looking up to the sky, and
appreciated the moon's reflection in the pond. They even enjoyed
the shimmering moon in their Sake cup and composed poems.

There is also another date on which people believe that the moon
shines beautifully. It is September 13th in the old style calendar,
was called JYUSANYA (The thirteenth night). People started to
celebrate it in addition to Jyugoya, which is peculiar to Japan.
Celebrating only one of them was considered bad luck.

In this autumn season, rice and potatoes can be reaped. Because of
this, these festivals are composed of agricultural rites for
appreciating harvest. The way of celebration depends on the region,
but it is common to offer an imitation of rice ears using pampas
grass or autumn flowers, Japanese mochi cakes that look like a full
moon, and newly harvested crops to the moon.

Are there any similar customs in your country? There are many events
in which people light up candles instead of electric lights to
appreciate the exquisite autumn moon. Why don't you turn off the
lights on a clear night and feel the mystic moon light?

Translation: Hitomi Kouchi, reviewed by Marina Izumi

:: 2. Seasonal Taste

"SATOIMO": A bringer of good luck from the Jomon period

Shiny full moon in mid September, which the Japanese people call
"Jugoya", is also called "Imomeigetsu". Imo means potato, and
Meigetsu means a beautiful moon. In Japan, September is the season
to reap potatoes, and on the Jugoya event, people display potatoes
as offerings to the moon. In this context, potatoes mean eddoes. The
potato and sweet potato which were brought into Japan in the 17th
century seem to be more popular in our current cuisine culture,
however, "potato" originally meant eddoe until the Edo period.
Eddoe has been cultivated since the Jomon period, which is even
earlier than rice. It was introduced from southern Asia where
Malaysia is today.

Eddoe is "Satoimo" in Japanese. Sato means village where people live.
Therefore, "Satoimo" means potatoes that grow in the vicinity of
human habituation. On the other hand, yam and Chinese yam such as
Dioscoreaceae spontaneously grow in nature. That is why we call them
"Yamaimo". Yama means mountain or highland. Sato and Yama are the
opposite of each other. In the past, people regarded eddoe as a
very important alternative food when they had famine after a bad
rice crop. Because of its amazing fecundity, eddoe came to be the
symbol of perpetuation of our descendants, and now it is served in

Eddoe contains a lot of water, and it is one of the low calorie
potato kinds. Eddoe also contains potassium which helps in the
discharging of salt from the body and helps in lowering the blood
pressure. Not only does eddoe contain Vitamins B1 and B2, but also
galactan, a dietary fiber, which make brain cells more active and
is believed to work as an anti-aging agent as well. Furthermore,
eddoe contains mucin, a glutinous substance, which strengthens the
functionality of liver, stomach and intestines.

We call eddoe stalks "Zuiki", and here is how to cook them. You
can get started by peeling the skin and let them dry. Just before
eating, you boil them and dress them with seaweeds and other
vegetables in seasoned vinegar, miso or other sauce. Because it
contains well-balanced carbohydrates, minerals, protein and fat,
in the age of wars around the 16th century, the legendary general
Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611) hid a lot of dried Zuiki underneath the
tatami mats in Kumamoto castle. One of the effective strategies to
win a battle for small armies is to retreat into the castle and
sustain a siege, which could last for many months. Preserved food
like Zuiki were crucial to endure such situations.

Eddoe has always been indispensable for the Japanese. It is a very
common food in the potato category in Asian countries. How about
yours? Do you have any custom to eat eddoes? If you have not, try
eating it and be healthier.

Translation: Hitomi Kouchi, reviewed by Naotake Kakehi

:: 3. Seasonal Flowers

Also called "Kaya": SUSUKI, Japanese Pampas Grass

Like the ear of Japanese pampas grass field swaying in the autumn,
My heart is swaying to you.
(by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Manyoshu Vol.10 - 2242)

Susuki, Japanese pampas grass is also called Kaya. It makes ears from
summer to autumn. It can be seen in the Korean Peninsula, China,
Taiwan as well as every region of Japan. The elegance of its wavering
motion has been appreciated by Japanese people since the 8th century
and it is chosen as one of the seven autumnal flowers. The seven
autumnal flowers represent the seven different flowers which are
supposed to be the most beautiful flowers that grow in the autumn.
These seven flowers originally appeared in two poems in Manyoshu,
Japan's oldest anthology of poems.

The ear looks like an animal tail and its color ranges from red to
purple to gold depending on the seasons and places. When it bears
seeds and down, it becomes a shiny white or silver color. This down
can be carried by the wind like dandelion's down.

Japanese pampas grass was indispensable for the ancient Japanese
people. It was used for thatched roofs, and for making bags to keep
and carry charcoal. Moreover, It was used to feed domestic animals
and as compost for their agricultural field.

There were Japanese pampas grasslands near where people lived and it
was cropped regularly. It was called "Kayaba (Japanese pampas
grassland)". There is a town called Kayaba-cho in Tokyo. It locates
by a river and marshland. In the Edo period, people transferred cut
Japanese pampas grass from the other side of the river into this area
to avoid a conflagration. There were many Japanese pampas grass
traders there as well, which resulted in the place being named

Also, it had been believed that the great vitality of Poaceae family
like Japanese pampas grass is valuable and mystic since ancient
times. For this reason, they were used in talisman and for praying
for a rich harvest. It was widely believed in Japan that it would get
rid of bad luck or prevent calamities, and make up for sins.

In traditional events called "Oharae", people walk through a
circle which is about two meters high, made from Japanese pampas
grass. In some parts of Kanto area, people make Japanese pampas grass
chopsticks and offer them to the full moon on "Jyugoya" (meaning the
night of the fifteenth) and also use those chopsticks to eat
"Sekihan" which is a rice dish cooked with azuki beans. Sekihan is
usually eaten at a celebration.

Japanese pampas grass is rarely used in Japanese life today. Jugoya,
the night people make offerings to the beautiful full moon enjoying
the autumnal quaint atmosphere, is the precious time when Japanese
pampas grass can be seen in today's ordinary Japanese life even today.

Translation: Hitomi Kouchi, reviewed by Yukiko Ueno

:: 4. News from JTCO

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