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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 13, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 27] July 13, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 27]
July 13, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival: Diversified background:"Tanabata"
(Star Festival)
2. News from JTCO: New articles Released!

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Diversified background:"Tanabata" (Star Festival)

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka", composed by Ootomono Yakamochi
recorded in Manyoshu, the Japanese oldest anthology.

"Tanabatano Koyoi Ainaba Tsunenogoto Asuwo hedatete Toshiwa Nagakemu"

Interpretation: We promise to meet at tonight, the day of Tanabata,
but we will have to get separated again for a year from tomorrow.

One of the traditional five festivals "Tanabata" (Star Festival) was
celebrated on July 7th in many regions of Japan this year again.
During the modern Tanabata, people write down their wishes on
rectangle paper called Tanzaku and put them on bamboo with other
decorations to wish their wishes to the stars. The original date of
Tanabata was on July 7th of the lunar calendar (middle August on the
solar calendar), which is the season of being able to see the Milky
Way clearly after the rainy season. Around this time, the moon
becomes a half-moon and it is called "Jougen no Tsuki (Crescent moon)".
There is a myth that a cattleman Hikoboshi (Altair) goes through the
Milky Way to see Orihime princess (Vega), and some stories said
Hikoboshi rows the crescent moon to see her. However, the date we
celebrate Tanabata today is not exactly the season of the half-moon.
He would perhaps have to prepare a boat instead.

Tanabata originated from many elements such as preparation for the
Shinto (the Japanese indigenous religion) ritual or "Obon festival",
a Buddhist festival to greet ancestor's spirits, the Chinese Orihime
and Hikoboshi story and other ancient Chinese events.

In the ancient Japan, people built huts called Tanabata at the
waterside. There were shrine maidens called "Tanabatatsume" who
worked in there to weave cloth for gods. It is said that the reason
of setting bamboo at Tanabata festival is that Tanabata hut was a
sanctuary, as you can see until now during the Shinto ritual the
sanctuary is surrounded by four poles of bamboo.

Tanabata festival in the lunar calendar is a week before the Obon
festival (July 15th in lunar calendar) which is the festival in which
people believe that the spirits of ancestors come back. In some region
s of Japan, you can see the bamboo decorations thrown into the river
or the sea after the Tanabata festival, like a purification ceremony
before greeting the ancestor's spirits (In Shinto, it is believed
that water purifies objects).

Imperial events called "Kikouden" started to be held to wish for
improvement of weaving, sewing, orchestral music and poem composing
in the Heian period (7-12C). This was originally a Chinese custom
and we can see some records of events in the old Chinese literature.
Just like the Japanese, Chinese imperials threaded five colour
threads through a needle, offering drinks and food like a gourd to
wish improvement of sewing skills. The Tanabata event must have been
associated with the saying that Orihime is good at weaving.

The decoration of Tanabata turned to current style since the Edo
period. In the famous Tanabata rhymes lyrics "Five clours of Tanzaku"
originated from Wu Xing which is a Chinese Natural philosophy
ideology, in which belief is everything being made by five elements.
Each of the five elements has a symbol colour and people applied
green, red, yellow, white and black to 5 -colour Tanzakus. The exact
time when five colour threads became Tanzaku is unclear, but it is
thought that it is around Edo period, when people composed and wrote
down Tanka on the Tanzaku to decorate the bamboo.

Tanabata event implicit the meanings of meeting with lover, purifying
the body, wishing improvement of craft skills and so on beyond the
time. If you are going to write down your wish on the Tanzaku, what
would you wish to the star?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yitin

:: 2. News from JTCO

New articles released!

Izushi Yaki: Izushi Porcelain
Izushi porcelain is burned with pure white materials called Kakitani
Toseki (Kakitani Pottery Stone), and its mysterious whiteness is

Read the full article:

Translation: Yoko Hokari, reviewed by Marina Izumi

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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