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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on May 22, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 54] May 22, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 54]
May 22, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
An auspicious symbol being thought as taboo
: Cho (Butterfly)

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Tegaki Koinobori (Hand-drawn Carp Streamer)
2) Esashi Oiwake
3) Daimokutate
+ 14 more new articles

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

An auspicious symbol being thought as taboo: Cho (Butterfly)

Here is a Japanese poem "Tanka" compiled in "Kokin Wakashu (an
anthology compiled with the taken of order by emperors and retired
emperors in the Heian period (8-12c))", composed by Soujou Henjou.
"Chirinureba Atowa akutani Naruhanawo Omoishirazumo Madou choukana"
Interpretation: Although the flowers become just dust once they fall,
butterflies that don’t know about that fly around in search of

Gorgeous butterflies such as a swallowtail can be seen in early summer.
Changing from larva to pupa, pupa to beautiful imago, the butterfly
has always been mysterious in all ages. What did the butterfly mean to
people since ancient times?

Butterfly has been recognised as a spiritual creature ever since
ancient China. In the graves of noblemen like Qin Shi Huang, a lot of
silkwarm larva shaped fetishes called “Kinsan” were buried with
their remains. A Chinese belief “Ukatousen” is to gain wings and
reach heaven as a legendary wizard. This is certainly expressing their
wish to be a pupa after their death and evolve to be a butterfly which
is a higher level of existence. Because the butterfly was thought of
as an ancestral spirit or god spirit in Okinawa prefecture, only
shaman who had a role of contacting with those sprits were allowed to
wear clothes with butterfly emblems. Butterfly was a fetish connecting
this world to other world as well as an auspicious symbol representing
change or rebirth.

The butterfly emblem which was apparently brought from China has a
long history in Japan. Taira’s family were allowed access to the
imperial court for the first time due to being in the samurai class in
the Heian period (8-12c). They loved the butterfly’s elegance and
used the butterfly pattern as a family emblem. Even after Taira family
became extinct, the emblem was still used by the families who claimed
they were descendants of Taira family. Since it has an incantation
meaning, it was sometimes written that a cluster of butterflies had a
sinister meaning in the books in the Kamakura period (12-14c). This
mystique could be a reason that this samurai family chose to use the
butterfly emblem to make enemies fear of them.

Many years later, by the time of the Chonin culture (literally the
town people, or people-on-the-street culture) in the Edo period (17c) ,
when people had an affluent life and started enjoying entertainment
such as Kabuki and hot spring, became thriving, its butterfly’s super
natural meaning gradually disappeared and the butterfly was often used
in songs, drawings, clothes and earthenware as a symbol of change and
rebirth. Today, it is even thought to be a good luck emblem, as a
butterfly flutters from flower to flower, the butterfly emblem is
sometimes avoided in a wedding ceremony. The word or pattern of
Swallowtail butterfly which are thought to be mysterious may be due to
not only it’s appearance but also the image of mystery which has been
conveyed since ancient times.

:: 2. News from JTCO

New article released!:

1) Tegaki Koinobori (Hand-drawn Carp Streamer)

Nowadays, printed nylon carp streamer has become mainstream and demand
for hand-drawn carp streamer made with Japanese paper is not so high.
In addition, it is impossible to produce the hand-drawn carp streamer
in large volume.

Translation by: Hiromi Fujii , reviewed by Marie Mine

2) Esashi Oiwake

"Esashi Oiwake" is one of the representative folk ballads of Japan.
Its origin and the beginning of its history are not known because of
the lack of literature; however, it is considered that Esashi Oiwake
has its roots both in Magouta in Shinshu (current Nagano Pref.,
Central Japan) and in Ise (current Mie Pref., West Japan)

Translation: Yoko Hokari, reviewed by Moe Shoji

3) Daimokutate

Daimokutate is a perfoming art with a theme based on the military
commander Genpei. The performers take partial charge of the lines
per the characters of the story and narrates with a unique intonation.

Translation: Yoshiko Nagao, reviewed by Hiroko Okamura

+ 14 more articles released! Please visit:

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