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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on November 27, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 61] November 27, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 61]
November 27, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Food:
A nut which leads to victory: Chestnut

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Torafu Takezaiku: Tiger Bamboo Work
2) Izumo Mingeishi: Izumo Folk Craft Paper

:: 1. Seasonal Food

A nut which leads to victory: Chestnut

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, compiled in Manyoshu
Vol.5-802 composed by Yamanoueno Okura.
"Uri hameba Kodomowo Omooyu, Kuri hameba Mashite Shinohayu."
Interpretation: Whenever I eat gourd, I remember my children. Whenever
I eat chestnuts, I dearly remember my children.

As autumn progresses, it is now the season we can enjoy the autumn
harvest. The big and yellowy Japan's chestnut has a strong sweet taste
and is good for being boiled to eat. Hot and sweet chestnut, this well
known autumn food adds extra joy on the Japanese tables when weather
is getting cold. From the tanka above, we can see that chestnut and
gourd were Japanese children's favourite foods in the Manyo period.

It seems that the Japanese ancestors have lived along with Japanese
origin chestnuts. We can see that the chestnut was harvested and eaten
by the ancient people as charred chestnuts were found in the Jomon
archaeological site which was built nine thousand years ago. From
another archaeological site built five thousand years ago, there were
also chestnuts found and they were bigger than wild chestnuts. And
also, chestnut tree firewood for fuel was found too. It clearly shows
us that they were planting chestnut tree for a purpose. A chestnut
tree wood circle was also excavated in the late Jomon period
archaeological site. Chestnut was possibly a holy trees for them and
although the principle use of this unique local wood circle hasn't
been revealed clearly, it seems that it was used as an altar for

The chestnut is an excellent nutritious food as well. It contains
starch which is an energy source for the body, vitamin B and C,
potassium and a lot of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. In
chinese medicine, the chestnut is classified as "heating food" and it
can increase energy, strengthen intestines, legs and waist. It can
also improve the flow of blood. We can see that the imperial court had
an interest in its nutrition from a description of chestnut's effects
in Nihon Shoki (The second oldest history book compiled in 720).
According to that, planting chestnuts was encouraged by the emperess
Jito in the 7th century. When talking of sweets in the Nara and Heian
periods, it referred to nuts or fruits. Chestnut was the most
luxurious sweet at that time. The oldest chestnuts plantation was in
Tanba area in kyoto prefecture which is still well-known as a chestnut
producing area. When Buddhism was brought into Japan, the technique of
tree grafting was also introduced from the continent in 538. After
this, bigger and sweeter chestnut was produced and it was often
dedicated to the imperial court.

In "Engishiki", a set of ancient Japanese governmental regulations
(complied in 927, including local specialties to be offered as a tax
gathered from all parts of Japan), there were descriptions about some
preserved chestnuts, "Kachiguri" which is chestnut dried and peeled
skin, "Hirakuri" which is steamed and powdered. Chestnut can be eaten
all year round with these preservation methods. In the Sengoku (Civil
War) period (15-16c), it was loved not only for its nutrition but also
the name 'kachi (win in Japanese)'. It was the food which was used to
restore samurai's spirits. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16-17c),
fried chestnut and chestnut soaked in water were served in tea
ceremonies. In the Edo period, "Abekawamochi" which is a rice cake
covered with roasted soy bean powder (well-known as Shizuoka
prefecture's specialty ) and "Ubagamochi" which is a rice cake covered
with sweet red bean paste (well-known as Shiga prefecture's
specialty ), were specialty of toukaidou, the main railway of Japan.
"Kurinokomochi" which is rice cake covered with chestnut powder (well
known as Gihu prefecture's specialty), was also popular for travelers.

Here is another tanka, complied in Kashu vol. 180 composed by
Kenreimon Inukyouno Daibu.
"Kurimo emi Okasikaruramuto Omounimo Ideyayukashiya akino yamazato"
Interpretation: It looks like chestnuts burst into laughter and pop
their shells. It makes me want to go to the autumn mountain.

Kuri gohan which is chestnut cooked with rice, Kuri kinton which is
simmered sweet and mashed chestnut, and Mont Blanc which is a cake
with chestnut cream on top. There are so many other chestnut foods
that instantly come to mind for the Japanese people. Are there any
famous chestnut foods in your country?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Torafu Takezaiku: Tiger Bamboo Work

Torafu-dake, or tiger bamboo is a type of henon bamboo, whose name
derives from the tiger-striped brindle pattern on its surface. Bamboo
is a plant with a strong life force, growing rapidly into the same
height as its parent in three months, becoming available for
processing in three to four years. Bamboos are considered to be an
only truly sustainable natural resource, which is vital for our time
with environmental issues.

Translation by: Moe Shoji

2) Izumo Mingeishi: Izumo Folk Craft Paper

The main characteristic of Izumo Mingeishi, Izumo Folk Craft Paper, is
the technique which makes the most out of the texture of the material.
All products are manufactured, enhancing the characters of different
types of plant fibres. Whether it is made of kozo (paper mulberry) or
gampi (Diplomorpha sikokiana), each sheet of paper has its own
character, which is sometimes described as powerful or masculine.

Translation by: Moe Shoji

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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