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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 15, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 56] July 15, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 56]
July 15, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Festival:
Exorcising sleepiness: "Nebuta/Neputa"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Atami Kusu Zaiku: Atami Camphor wood crafts
2) Najio-shi: Najio paper
3) Edo sato kagura: Edo folk dance to entertain god

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Exorcising sleepiness: "Nebuta/Neputa"

"Nebuta/Neputa" is a big festival held in many parts of the Aomori
prefecture which is the most northern prefecture in Honshu. There
are many mighty warrior-figured lanterns floating, which lights up
the summer night sky during the festival. Lantern is one of the
traditional lighting equipment that candlelight is protected from
wind to prevent extinguishment with wooden and paper flame. While
the festival is called "Nebuta" in the Aomori city (at the central
of Aomori prefecture), it is called "Neputa" in the Hirosaki city
(at the western Aomori prefecture). Though there are several views
about how the festival was named, a purification called "Misogi-
harae",which was a custom to purify the mind and body from sin and
defilement, is most likely the origin.

This custom of "Nemuri nagashi" was held differently depending on the
regions but it started as a tradition that, if you play or swim in the
river or sea before dawn on July 7th in the lunar calendar (Between
end of July to end of August in the new calendar), you could be an
early riser that year. In this custom, various objects were floated
off into the river or sea. The object could be leaves of "Nemunoki
(silk tree)" or soybean tree, or it could be a paper doll or lantern.

The expression recited in this event is very interesting.

"Nemuwa Nagareyo Mamenohawa Tomare"
(Kumagaya area in Saitama prefecture, the north neighbor of Tokyo)

"Nebuta Nangarero Mamenoha Tonmare"
(Oomagari area in Akita prefecture, the south neighbor of Aomori

"Nebutamo Nagarero Mamenohamo Todomare"
(The Shimokita Peninsula in aomori prefecture)

The regions are different, but the meanings of the expressions are all
the same.

In this expression, "Nemu" and "Nebuta" mean sleepiness. "Mame (豆:
bean)" means "Mamemameshii". "Mame" could originally be "Mami(真美)"
or "Mame(真目)". "Mame"or "Mamemameshii" have existed since the Nara
period(8c). Although the meaning has slightly changed along with the
era, it is usually used as "not frivolous but reliable",
"hard-working" or "practical".

Japanese used to think that the spirits of ancestors or gods was
coming from the sea, and they were sent off to sea again in autumn.
"Nemuri Nagashi (Float off sleepiness)" event started to purify a
spirit which turned into sleepiness and tried to possess people.

People got sleepy due to the heat and tiredness even though it is the
time they had to work hard in the busy farming season. To get rid of
that, similar charms were created in many places. We can see that
the Japanese must be earnest since ancient times.

A square shaped lantern was still being used in Nebuta of Aomori till
the end of the 18th century. Although it is hard to do with the
current giant lanterns, people used to wash or float off lanterns in
the river or sea on the last day of the festival, the July 7th in the
lunar calendar. "Nebuta" and "Neputa" festivals have been designated
as a significant intangible folk cultural asset. Please have a look
at those pictures on the Internet. You will be surprised at how huge
the lanterns are that it almost doesn't seem like a lantern. Many of
the Nebuta and Neputa festivals are mainly held in the Tohoku area.
If you would like to see these dynamic lanterns, why don't you go
there to see it with your own eyes?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Atami Kusu Zaiku: Atami Camphor wood crafts

Atami, one of the main Japanese hot spring areas, is also famed with
Atami kusu zaiku, the local traditional wood craft. Kusu zaiku is
made of camphor tree that grows proliferously in Izu area of Shizuoka
prefecture. Crafts completed with urushi (natural Japanese lacquer)
are well known for their beautiful wood grain, insect repellent and

Translation by: Aki Tobayama, reviewed by Eri Hara

2) Najio-shi: Najio paper

Najio-shi is made from Gampi (Diplomorpha sikokiana), which is known
as one of the main washi materials as well as Kozo (mulberry) and
Mitsumata (Oriental paperbush). Wild gampi belonging to a deciduous
shrubs, members of thymelaeaceae, which grows in the southwestern
intermountain region from Izu, Shizuoka Pref.(eastern limit) to Kaga,
Ishikawa Pref. (northern limit). Due to their slow growth, it is
difficult to cultivate them for profitable concern so that
paper-makers still depend on wild Gampi.

Translation by: Aki Tobayama, reviewed by Eri Hara

3) Edo sato kagura: Edo folk dance to entertain god

It is said that Hironobu Yamamoto, a gonritsushi (Buddhist priest)
originated Edo sato kagura (performed by Yorinobu Yamamoto troupe) in
Its origin dates back to the time when villagers danced at Kuniyasu
shrine in the Yamamoto family's neighborhood.

Translation by: Morito Kawaoku, reviewed by Eri Hara

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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