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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on December 31, 2013
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition: December 2013, Issue 9

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 9]
December 31, 2013
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Flower: Starts blooming fragrantly before others in
the winter: “Robai”

:: 1. Seasonal Flower

Starts blooming fragrantly before others in the winter: “Robai”

Here is a “Tanka”, sung by Kubota Utsubo recorded in “Aokuchiba”.

“Shirashira to Shoji wo tosu Fuyunohi ya Heya ni hito naku Robai
no hana”

Interpretation: “One winter day, the room is filled with soft shine
run through a paper sliding door. Nothing but wintersweet’s aroma
is there peacefully.

From January to February, wintersweet blossoms with bright yellow
petals and a delicious fragrance. They are deciduous shrub in the
Calycanthaceae family, and one of the few kind of flowers that fully
blossom in winter.

In China, the original country of wintersweet, people love the
flower as one of the best four picturesque winter flowers - Japanese
apricot, Daffodil, Camellia and Wintersweet - and Chinese people
call them “雪中四友”, which literally means “the four friends in
the snow.” Wintersweet was introduced into Japan via Korea in the
Edo period.

The reason why we the Japanese call wintersweet “Rou-Bai” is that
the flowers are related to the “Rou,” - wax or glue in Japanese -
and “Bai” or Japanese apricot. In the mid winter, wintersweet
starts blooming little bit earlier than Japanese apricot. Its
flowers look glossy like waxworks. Like Japanese apricot, its buds
attach to their brunches directly and its flowers are fragrant with
the sweet smell. December, the season of wintersweet, has another
name in the old style careener and it is called “Rou-getsu” or
the-glue-month because it connects a passing year and a new year.
For the reasons above, the flower seems to be named “Roubai.”

The flower is commonly called wintersweet, and the academic name for
the flower is Chimonanthus. In Greek, “Cheimon “ means winter
and ”Anthos” means flower. In either way, its name says the flower
has very sweet smell and blooms in winter .

Wintersweet was not very common in the Edo period, however, it is
popular in Japan today. There are a lot of parks and gardens where
you can enjoy beautiful wintersweets. It is worth going to see them
if you visit Japan in the beginning of the year.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Naotake Kakehi

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