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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on April 16, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 50] April 16, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 50]
April 16, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
A symbol of conjugal harmony:
"Nimai gai (a bivalve)"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!
1) Ara-odori (Sankasho Shrine Festival)
2) Mi-fune event in Kouchi Festival
3) Ise-Momen: Ise Cotton
4) Mushiake-Yaki: Mushiake ware

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

A symbol of conjugal harmony: "Nimai gai (a bivalve)"

This is a Japanese poem "Tanka", titled "Utsuse gai (Empty shell)"
composed by Nakajima Hirotari.
"Araisono Namini tayutou Utsuse gai Himose sonauru Tokimo arikeri"
Interpretation: We are just like a pair of seashells at the mercy of
rough waves. However rough the waves are, all the seashells will not
be torn apart. We can now stay together without being severed.

On the day of Hinamatsuri (Girl's Festival on March 3rd), families who
have daughters have clam soup at celebration tables. But basket clam
meat or other bivalve meat take the place of clam meat in some regions.
What is the meaning of clam soup on Hinamatsuri? Now is the season
when shellfish meat, such as orient clams and basket clams, becomes
firm and flavourful. On March 2nd on the lunar calendar, the spring
tide occurs. When the sea level became low at noon, people went to the
sea to dig in the sand for gathering clams, which were offered to god
on the next day as the harvest from the sea. In Edo (former name for
Tokyo), offering clams gathered at Tokyo Bay was the customary

Ancient people made the best use of the bilaterally symmetrical shape
of bivalve shells which is individual to respective pairs, and created
a game called "Kai Ooi". The game's rule was simple - only to find the
other half of the pair, like a memory game. But the simple game
gradually developed into a seashell competition game, "Kaiawase" which
later became a competition of seashell poetry or "Utagai" which was to
find the matched pair of shells using a drawing of it, or half of a
poem written about it. There is a collection of masterpiece poems that
used shellfish as a subject as well.

In the samurai society in Edo period (17-19c), the most important
trousseau was "Kaioke", a pair of bucket which contains 360 pairs of
clamshells (numbers of days in a year of the old calendar). Those
containers were gorgeously decorated with gold foil, and "Maki-e
lacquer" of sceneries and noble couples in the Imperial court were
drawn on them to wish conjugal harmony of the wedding couples and
brides' chaste. (Until this time, the name of the game is said to have
been changed to "Kai awase".) A 360-pair of clamshells used for
"Kai-awase" were stored in a pair of luxurious octagon boxes called
Kaioke, which was carried at the head of a bridal procession. When the
procession reached the groom's house, the first thing that a senior
statesman, such as a chief retainer in the bride's family, did was to
have a ceremony of "Kaioke Watashi (Handing Kaioke)". We can see how
important meaning clamshells had for brides' happiness.

Here is a tanka composed by Oohouri Tsuru (Tsuru hime).
"Wagakoiwa Mishimano urano Utsuse gai Munashikunarite Nawozo wazurau"
Interpretation: Even though I conquered fame in the war, I feel like
an empty shell washed out of the sea of Mishima seashore.

This is a death tanka composed by Tsuru Hime at the age of Civil Wars
in 16th century. When she was sixteen, she joined the army with her be
loved. But at the age of eighteen, she threw herself into the ocean
after her lover was killed in the battlefield. Although she defeated
the enemy, Ouchi family fleet, nothing could console her loneliness.
She could have inherited her family estate as a Shinto priest but she
didn't choose to do so. Is it because of her youth, or because she was
a woman that she decided to follow him ?

Recent lifestyles of families and couples have diversified the form
and sense of happiness for both men and women. However, it is always
the same human feelings that we desire to live with a partner who is
the one and only person just like a pair of clamshell. Why don't we
try seasonal taste of shellfish meat and imagine the feelings of
ancient Japanese people while wishing upon bivalves.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Naoko Yamashita

:: 2. News from JTCO

New article released!:

1) Ara-odori (Sankasho Shrine Festival)

Ara-odori is a gallant dance which people dance wearing costumes of
warriors in Sengoku-era (15-16c) with bows, pikes and guns in their

Translation: Shione Huruta, reviewed by Marina Izumi

2) Mi-fune event in Kouchi Festival

What is "Kouchi Matsuri?"
Kouchi Matsuri is a traditional festival organized by five districts
located along Koza River, Koza,Furuta, Takaike, Utsugi, and Tsukinose.

Translation: Naoko Yamashita, reviewed by Hiroko Okamura

3) Ise-Momen: Ise Cotton

As what people sing, "Ise held up by Tsu, Tsu held up by Ise, and
Owari-Nagoya held up by the castle". Tsu, the center of Ise-no-kuni,
was a production area of silk, hemp fibre and cotton (Ise-Momen).

Translation: Shione Huruta, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

4) Mushiake-Yaki: Mushiake ware

The greatest appeal of Mushiake-Yaki (Mushiake ware) is its quiet
color that comes from ash glaze. Mushiake-Yaki goes well with any
kind of pottery particularly at tea ceremonies.

Translation: Marina Izumi, reviewed by Naoko Yamashita

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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