JTCO strives for inheritance, creation and development of Japanese traditional culture.

JTCOJapanese Traditional Culture Promotion&Development Organization
日本語 | English
Newsletter Back Number

Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on September 08, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 58] September 8, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 58]
September 8, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
Japan is a country that dragonflies lining up? :
"Tonbo (Dragonfly)"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Sendai-Tsuishu: Sendai Lacquerware
2) Kurashiki Hariko: Kurashiki Papier-mache
3) For Comfortable Living Space: Tategu-Koshimizu
+ Four more new articles

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

Japan is a country that dragonflies lining up? :
"Tonbo (Dragonfly)"

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, tanka, compiled in "Shokugosen
"Akizuhano Sugatano kunini Ato taruru Kamino mamoriya Waga kiminotame"
Interpretation: To protect you, god descends to Japan which is a
beautiful country that looks like dragonfly's wings.

The scene in which dragonflies flit about lightly and silently under
the clear sky is the Japanese autumn symbolic scene. The kind of
dragonfly often seen in the rice field after harvest is "Red
dragonfly" which is a fully-grown "Autumn darter
(especially the male)". They all incubate at once in the rainy
season and inhabit in cool mountain district to avoid the summer
heat, and then come back to human habitation to lay eggs in droves
in the autumn.

As it was sung in the Tanka in the opening paragragh, dragonfly's
former name is "Akitsu" or "Akizu". Japan used to be called "Akitsu
shima" and it was named after a folk tale. The first emperor of
Japan, Emperor Jimmu, said "It is a beautiful country with a series
of mountains, which looks like a couple of dragonflies are holding
tails with each other and mating in a circle shape (written in a
Nihon Shoki which is a book of classical Japanese history compiled
in 720.)". The dragonfly was an auspicious insect for Japanese
because they eat vermin. There is an another story in Nihon Shoki.
The emperor was hunting in Yoshino and a horsefly stung his arm. And
a dragonfly came and caught the horsefly, then flew away with it.
Emperor Jimmu was pleased and named Japan "Akitsu".

Akizu shima was the name for only some parts of ancient Japan but it
gradually became the name of all parts of Japan. There must be so
many sceneries that dragonflies fly about in all over Japan.
Dragonfly is called "Ah keh jyu" in Okinawa dialect. We can see the
remains of old Japanese language from this.

The kanji of dragonfly "蜻蛉" is pronounced as "Tonbo" or "Kagerou
(Mayfly)". Unlike the dragonfly which flits about in a lively way,
mayfly is the symbol of transience. In "Kagerou Nikki (classical
Japanese literature in the women's diary genre, written around 974)"
or Kagerou as the name of episode 52 in "Genji Monogatari (a long
length novel compiled in 1008)", both says mayfly would die within
a day. In the kamakura period(12-14c), the dragonfly's beautiful
clear wings were sung in a tanka and compared to a summery gown. It
was described as thin and fragile.

Here is another tanka, compiled in "Shukaku Hosshinnou Gojyu shuuta".
Interpretation: Although today is Lixia (the day summer starts), if
you wear the sheer silk like a dragonfly's wing, you would probably
feel cooler.

In the Sengoku (Civil War) period (15-16c), the way that dragonfly
catching quarries in the sky quickly or always flying forward and
never fall behind, were liked by samurais and they called the
dragonfly "Kachi mushi (勝虫: Insect of victory)". It was widely
used as a design on their warrior helmet's crest, armour, arrow case,
Japanese sword mounting, Inr? (traditional Japanese case carrying on
the kimono) and patterns of their clothes drapery. In the folktale
from Iwate prefecture, called "Danburi Choujya (Danburi means
dragonfly in Aushu area dialect)", a hardworking farmer was led by a
dragonfly that came from a mountain and found a spring gushing out
alcohol as well as gold ore. The dragonfly was probably as an
incarnation of mountain sprit for them in the farming area.

Although the dragonfly is adored enough to be used as a name for the
country in Japan, there is a folk belief in Western countries that
if a child tells a lie, dragonfly would come to saw his or her lips.
Dragonfly is also called "Witch's needle" and it is treated as a
disgusting insect. So many countries, so many customs, aren't there?

Most of dragonflies fly in the rainy season in June in Japan.
However, autumn darters, that are sung about in the famous Japanese
nursery rhyme "Aka tonbo", fly and dance to copulate as the autumn
rain front goes through and some of them live until the end of
autumn or early winter. There are 5,000 kinds of dragonflies in the
whole world and 200 of them inhabit Japan. Which kind of dragonflies
can you see in your country?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Sendai-Tsuishu: Sendai Lacquerware

Tuishu is referred to as one of the techniques called "choshitsu" in
lacquerware manufacturing that repeatedly applies thick
vermilion-colored lacquer on the ware, on which design patterns are
later engraved. Choshitsu also includes application of other colors
such as tsuikoku and tsuio that use black and yellow lacquer

Translation by: Tomoko Yamamoto

2) Kurashiki Hariko: Kurashiki Papier-mache

"Kurashiki Hariko" is papier mache which all parts of works are
handmade by craftsmen. Espeically, one of their famous figures is a
tiger. There are various kinds of hariko masks and dolls including
Chinese zodiac animal other than tiger.
Wooden molds for hariko are also made by craftmen.

Translation by: Yoko Hokari, reviewed by Eri Hara

3) For Comfortable Living Space: Tategu-Koshimizu

Do you know of "Tategu?" Tategu collectively refers to wooden
partitions of space such as shoji, paper sliding doors, husuma,
which are thick paper sliding doors. They control the opening and
closing of a house. The sliding door entrance in the Golden Hall of
Horyu-ji Temple is said to be the oldest in existence.

Translation by: Kenta Koshimizu, reviewd by Marina Izumi

+ Four more new articles were released at:

Copyright by Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion and
Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

To subscribe/unsubscribe to our Newsletter, or to change your
registered email address, please visit:

JTCO Newsletter "Delivery of Seasonal Tradition"Experience Japan with you tour guide!Find us@Facebook