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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on February 17, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition: February 2014, Issue 13

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 13]
February 17, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival:
Accomplishment of study and Fragrance of Japanese Apricot:
Japanese Apricot Blossoms Festival

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Accomplishment of study and Fragrance of Japanese Apricot:
Japanese Apricot Blossoms Festival

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka", composed by Sugawara Michizane.

"Kazesamumi Yukini Magaete Sakuhanano Sodenizo Utsure Niou Umega ka"

Interpretation: Japanese apricot, smells pleasant, blooming in a cold
snowstorm. I wish that it would bring its scent to me, sobbing along
with soaked sleeves in tears.

From the end of January to the end of February, it is a very busy
entrance examination time for Japanese junior high school and high
school students. Particularly, the high school students who are
willing to enter private universities, have to take individual
examinations in each university. If they want to try national or
public universities, they must take the joint examinations. While
studying for the exams, those students, who are anxious or anticipate,
go to "Tenjin" shrine which is the god for study and pray for success
in their examinations.

The enshrined deity of Tenjin is Sugawara no Michizane who was a
famous and prominent politician, scholar and poet in the Heian period.
He had excelled at composing poems since he was a child and was
appointed to a government officer while he was still young. He was
then promoted smoothly and took the important works upon himself for
the government of the country. However, at the age of 57 years old,
Michizane was demoted to Dazaihu in Kyushu, plotted by a political
opponent Fujiwara, which was far away from Kyoto, the then metropolis.
He never returned to Kyoto since then and died in Dazaihu. After his
death, many political opponents died one after another and a number
of extraordinary natural phenomenons happened as well. People believed
that those incidents were caused by Michizane's curse, therefore,
the shrine, called "Tenmangu" was built to appease his angry spirit.
Michizane was deified as a god, called "Tenjin" or "Raijin(Thunder
God)"in the Tenmangu.

The poem shown at the beginning was about the Japanese apricot in
full bloom which Michizane looked for the last time and composed for
when he was going to Dazaihu. As he composed several other poems
about Japanese apricots, they have been planted in various Tenjin
shrines around Japan and became a symbol of Tenjin, used as their
emblem. There is a folklore in China that the Japanese apricot is
more fragrant when study flourishes, so the flower is also called
"好文木", meaning that a tree that likes studying. It is said that
Michizane made good progress of study in his younger days,
surrounded with the scent of Japanese apricots. It must be a special
flower for him to heal his heart at unstable moments in his life. For
the brightest person in the Heian period and the god of study today,
the fragrance of Japanese apricot may have served Michizane's
accomplishment of study.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Hiroko Okamura

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