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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on October 14, 2013
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition: October 2013, Issue 2

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 2]
October 12, 2013
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival: Double good luck day: “OKUNCHI”
2. News from JTCO

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Double good luck day: “OKUNCHI”

Since long ago, annual autumn harvest festivals have been held in
many places of Japan. Of those festivals held in north Kyushu areas,
“Nagasaki Kunchi” is the most famous one and the other autumn
festivals are also called “Kunchi” or “Okunchi.” ”Okunchi”
can be written with Chinese characters as “御九日” which means
September 9 in the old style calendar.

September in the old style calendar used to be the season to reap
fields, and on September 9, 19, and 29, people made offerings with
chrysanthemums and cooked Mochi, a Japanese rice cake, as well as
Sekihan which is the rice boiled with red beans for festive occasions.
September 9, 19, and 29 were collectively called “Sankunichi”(Three
nine days).

Why did Japanese people used to celebrate on those dates related to 9?
It is because the single-digit odd numbers were believed to be lucky
in ancient China, especially 9 which is the highest among them.
Because September 9 is the date that has two 9s, Chinese people
believed that it was the most auspicious day, and they celebrated
that day as the Chung Yeung Festival. In China, there is a legend
that says drinking chrysanthemum’s dewdrops can give people eternal
youth. On the Chung Yeung Festival, people who pray for their good
health and longer life decorate chrysanthemums and drink sake with
chrysanthemum’s petals.

These Chinese customs of the Chung Yeung were introduced into Japan
in the eighth century. Several hundred years later, in the Heian
period, chrysanthemum sake was served for guests of “Chrysanthemum
Banquet” held at the Imperial Court. In the celebration of
“Chrysanthemum Covering Cloth,” people wiped their body
in the morning of September 9 with the cotton that had been placed
on and covered chrysanthemums during the whole previous night. By
cleaning one’s body with the chrysanthemum-scented cotton that
soaked with dewdrops, people prayed for their youth and beauty.
Believe it or not, it is very refreshing to wipe your body with the
cotton cloth soaked with plenty of dewdrops and the aroma of

In the Edo period, the regime counted the Chung Yeung Festival as
one of the five most important festivals. On the Chung Yeung
Festival, people held parties for drinking sake with petals,
exhibited chrysanthemums and held flower shows. Such customs led to
the origin of “Okunchi,” appreciation of the harvest.

Unfortunately, September 9 is not the season of chrysanthemum in the
new style calendar that has been used in Japan since the Meiji
period in the 19th century, so the custom of the Chung Yeung
festival no longer exists in Japan since then. Even though ordinary
Japanese people don’t have the custom any more, the Imperial House
of Japan holds a social gathering appreciating chrysanthemums. At
“Shinjyuku Gyoen”, which is located in Tokyo, there is a large
scale majestic chrysanthemums’ flower bed that used to be the
Imperial’s possession, and a lot of people enjoy it every autumn.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Naotake Kakehi

:: 2. News from JTCO

New articles released!

-Interviews & Reports:
Iwayado Tansu furniture craftworker interview (2)
(Three-part series)

Also check out the first of the series:

-Traditional Craft:
Mino Washi: Mino Japanese Paper

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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