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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on May 31, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 24] May 31, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 24]
May 31, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival:
Originally a festival for women?: "Tango no Sekku"
(the Boys' Festival)

2. News From JTCO:
New Article Released - Nambu Sakiori Textile

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Originally a festival for women?: "Tango no Sekku" (the Boys'

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka", composed by Nukatano Ookimi
recorded in Manyoshu No.1 (20).

"Akanesasu Murasakinoyuki Shimenoyuki Nomoriwa mizuya kimiga

When I was picking medical herbs in the field of castellany
surrounded with the madder red sunset, I saw you shaking sleeves
to me. I wonder if the imperial guard saw it ? (You are shaking
sleeves to tell me that you love me, but I am married to your
brother, the emperor.)

According to the old calendar, the 5th of May is the day for "Tango
no Sekku" which is known as "Children's day". We can see "Koinobori"
(carp streamer) flying high in the sky during this season.
"Koinobori" means "carp streamer, carp-shaped wind socks. The
tradition originated from the Chinese folklore that a carp swimming
up a muddy stream becomes a dragon. In contrast to the girl's
festival known as "Hinamatsuri" held on the 3rd of March, families
who have boys set up warrior dolls in the house as a part of the
celebration on "Tango no sekku", the 5th of May.

Explanatory note:
"Sekku" means seasonal turning points in Japanese calendar.
Traditional events are held to celebrate the coming season.

The Children's day event started 2400 years ago in Chu, one of the
feudal states of ancient China. Originally, people in Chu started
this event to exorcise evil spirits by picking medical herbs,
decorating mugwort dolls and calamus flowers outside the door.
Japanese custom of "Tango no Sekku" : hanging mugwort and calamus
leaves from the eaves of houses; taking calamus-leaf bath must
have come from Chinese tradition.

The record of Tango no Sekku can be seen in "Nihon Shoki" which is
the oldest chronicles of Japan. There is a description in the book,
that "Kusuri garisu" (Preparing medicine) was conducted on May 5th
of the year of 611.
"Kusuri" means medicine or drug, and here it means deer horns as
it is used as an energy enhancement medicine. On the day of
"Kusurigari" (preparing medicine), men hunt deer for the horns,
and women picked medical herbs in the fields. We can see the
scenery of 1400 years ago in the famous love poem in the opening

In ancient farming villages, women who were starting to plant rice
would stay in a thatched shed made with mugwort and calamus to
purify their bodies. In those days, women who give birth were
responsible for rice planting, because they were believed to bring
fertility also to the rice fields. The ceremony before planting
rice was done to wish those women called "Sa-otome" (Sa=god of rice
fields, Otome=maiden) could accomplish their mission without any
trouble in the unpleasant damp season, "Satsuki"(May).

Many years later, in the time of samurai, the word "Shobu" (尚武),
which means martial spirits, was linked to "Shobu" (菖蒲), the word
for calamus which was a symbol of "Tango no sekku". The sword
shaped calamus leaf also played a role to popularize "Tango no
Sekku" as the boy's festival.

Do you have any similar festivals to celebrate boys or girls in
your country?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Naoko Yamashita

:: 2. News From JTCO

New Article Released!

[Traditional Craft]

Nambu Sakiori Textile (Aomori Pref)

Sakiori is a type of woven textile, which originated from the
wisdom of women to make the most of the materials at hand. This
textile has been made using worn-out kimonos, old cloths and
fragments of fabric.

Read the full article

Translation: Moe Shoji, reviewed by Maiko Hayashi

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