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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on June 22, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 55] June 22, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 55]
June 22, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Plant:
Symbol of blessing with children: pomegranate

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Touzan-wahi: Touzan Japanese paper
2) Yanai-jima: Yanai Stripes
3) Yodoegasa: Yodoe umbrella

:: 1. Seasonal Plant

Symbol of blessing with children: pomegranate

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, tanka, "Kagami togi (mirror
polishing)" sung in "Shichijyu ichiban shokunin uta awase (the
biggest tanka anthology in the later middle age in which all songs
are sung about craftsmen, established at the end of 1500 in the
Muromachi period)"

"Mizukaneya zakurono sumasu Kagenareya Kagamito miyuru Tsukino

Interpretation: Moonlight is reflected in the mirror that has been
polished with mercury and pomegranate.

A lunar calendar was used in Japan until around the end of the 19th
century and summer in this calendar was May (from mid-June to mid-
July in the New calendar). May had another name which was榴月
(Ryugetsu) and 榴 means pomegranate (pomegranate in Kanji is written
as 石榴or柘榴). May in the lunar calendar is the season in which
pomegranates bloom.

There was a politician called Oh Anseki in Beisong, one of the
Chinese dynasties., who was also a poet. In one of his poems, there
is a line that goes like "万緑叢中紅一点 (Banryoku Souchu Kou itten)"
which describes the scene of pomegranate blooming brightly among
summery green plants, like a lady standing alone.

Since ancient times, descriptions about pomegranate can be found in
medical books as an effective plant all over the world and they are a
symbol of prosperity of descendants or rebirth because they bear
plenty of seeds. There are female hormone components in pomegranate
seeds. People must have known this effect from their experience even
though they were not able to analyse it scientifically in ancient

Kishibojin is a Buddhism goddess, believed to be the goddess of
childrensafe birth and childcare. Her statue holds a baby in the
bosom and also holds pomegranate in her right hand. She had one
thousand children and loved them but she also stole human's children
and ate them. Seeing many mothers grieving, the founder of a Buddhism
religion, Shakyamuni hid Kishibojin's youngest child. She desperately
tried to find the child and realised that the sorrow of other
mothers whose children had been stolen. After that, she started
eating pomegranates given by Shakyamuni with her returned child.
Kishibojin became a protective god for fertility and children
protection. This is the reason that the precincts of temples which
worship Kishibojin is planted with trees of pomegranates and a
picture of pomegranate is printed on Ema (a wooden plaque on which
worshippers write their wishes) .

In the middle of the tenth century, the pomegranate was brought into
Japan from China or the Korean Peninsula. A pronunciation "Sakuro"
was mentioned in the dictionary compiled in the middle of the Heian
period (8-12c). In that period, the fruits had started being eaten as
snack in the imperial court, its hull, bark, root bark and flower
were used for medicine, and also the fruit juice was used to make

An interesting way to use a pomegranate in Japan is "Kagami togi
(polishing mirror)" which was mentioned in the tanka in the opening
paragraph. This is one of the tankas in "Shichijyu ichiban shokunin
utaawase" which is a poetry anthology established at the end of 1500
and tankas were sung about craftsmen. At that time, the professional
mirror polisher visited people's houses to polish mirrors. Copper
mirrors were the most common mirror at that time and was polished
with an alloy of tin and mercury mixed with whetstone powder as well
as acid liquid. This acid liquid was taken from the pomegranate's
outer seed coat wrapped in a cloth as it contains Citric acid and
apple acid.

Many years later in the Edo period (17c), the entrance of the
bathroom in bathhouses was called "Zakuro guchi" because to go
through this entrance people had to bend their bodies. "Kagamiiru"
means "bending body and enter" in Japanese. "Kagamiiru" also means of
"need mirror". The entrance name was named from a play on these words
as a pomegranate is needed to polish a mirror, which is a typical
Edo joke.

The pomegranate has fruits in the autumn but now is the season it
blooms colourful flowers. Until the fruits are ready, let's enjoy
appreciating its flowers and use its fruit's syrup, grenadine, for
food and drinks. It can be a good idea to give a thought to
pomegranates too.

Translation by Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO

New article released!:

1) Touzan-wahi: Touzan Japanese paper

Touzan-Washi, or traditional Touzan Japanese Paper, has been inherited
since as long as 800 years ago in Tozan-town, Ichinoseki City, Iwate
ouzan-Washi is mainly produced in cold winter.

Translation by Shione Furuta, reviewed by Tomoko Yamamoto

2) Yanai-jima: Yanai Stripes

The term "classical Japanese woven textiles" may remind you of
Kiryu-ori or Nishijin-ori silk fabrics. However, there is also a
woven textile called "Yanai-jima", or Yanai stripes, in Setouchi
area (the area around Seto Inland Sea).

Translation by Aki Tobayama, reviewed by Tomoko Yamamoto

3) Yodoegasa: Yodoe umbrella

"Yodoegasa", Japanese traditional umbrella, has been handmade since
Edo Period (17-19c.).
Not only its durability against wind and snow, its unique beautiful
yarn decoration is outstanding enough that it was designated as an
intangible cultural asset of Yonago city (Tottori Pref., West Japan)
by the Japanese government.

Reviewed by Naoko Yamashita

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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