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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on October 31, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 37] October 31, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 37]
October 31, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival:
Originally "Yellow leaves" :
"Momiji Gari (viewing autumn scenery)"

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Originally "Yellow leaves" : "Momiji Gari (viewing autumn scenery)"

The autumn has arrived with its tinted leaves again this year. It
seems that ancient Japanese have already started appreciating
Japanese maples in the late 7th century.

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka", recorded in Manyoshu, No.10 (2184).
"Akiyama wo Yumehito Kakuna Wasurenishi Sono Momichiba no Omohoyu
Interpretation: Please don't mention the autumn mountains. It reminds
me of the beautiful Japanese maples and makes me miss it with sorrow.

The name of the Japanese maple "Momiji" was derived from the verb
"Momitsu". It describes the scene of plants turning red and yellow
in autumn and the word was gradually used as a noun "Momitsu"
included in the poem above, and then became the current word "Momiji".

This is another "Tanka", composed by Ootsuno Miko recorded in
Manyoshu, No.8 (1512).
"Tatemo naku Nukimo Sadamezu Otomeraga Oru Momichibani Simona
Interpretation: It looks like a piece of brocade made by maidens who
threw shuttles and weaved randomly. I hope such outstanding Japanese
maple won't get frosted.

Most people imagine the red leaves when they hear "momiji (Japanese
maple) because momiji is written as "紅葉" in kanji (Japanese writing
ideograph) meaning red leaves. However, the kanji of momiji used to
be applied "黄葉"(Yellow leaves) in the 7th century. It was because
at that time most trees in the Yamato area (west Japan) were from the
oak family and they tinted yellow in the autumn. "Momiji"represents
Japanese maple nowadays, but it was not called "momiji" before. It
was called "Kaerude instead (frog's hand, this later abbreviated to
"Kaede")". The kanji "黄葉" gradually changed to "紅葉" in the Edo
period (17c) after Heian period(8-12c).

In Japan, the word for viewing Japanese maple is "紅葉狩り Momiji
Gari" which is used similar to "リンゴ狩りRingo Gari (apple picking)"
or "ぶどう狩りBudou Gari (grape picking)." "狩り (Kari, Gari)"
means hunting and the word was originally used only for animal
hunting or fruit picking. "狩り" was started being applied in scenery
viewing since Heian Period, when the noble did not hunt animal but
appreciate flowers by plucking instead. Even not plucking, it is
obviously amazing by viewing far away or seeing the falling leaves
under the wind. Let's enjoy "Momiji gari" in the modern way again
this year.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yitin

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