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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on December 18, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 62] December 18, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 62]
December 18, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Event:
Substitute for making visits: Nengajou (New Year card)

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Zeze-Yaki: Zeze ware
2) Tosa Uchihamono: Tosa Blade
3) Kishu Bina: Kishu Dolls
4) Hakata Ningyo: Hakata Dolls
5) Kaga-mizuhiki: Kaga Paper Cord Ornament
6) Banshu Soroban: Banshu Abacus

:: 1. Seasonal Event

Substitute for making visits: Nengajou (New Year card)

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, composed by Sakinorisshi
Toshimune, compiled in Senzai Wakashu No.474.
"Hitotosewa Hakanaki yumeno Kokochishite Kurenurukyouzo Odorokarenuru"
Interpretation: One year is just like an empty dream. It is surprising
that this year will come to an end soon.

It seems that both the people of today and the people of the past
agree that one year flies by every year. As ancient people's life span
was much shorter than now, they might have treasured the time passing
or a new year coming more than people do today.

One job for of the Japanese at the end of the year is writing Nengajou
(New Year greeting postcard). There is a time system created in China
called "Junishi (twelve branches)". In this calendar, one of twelve
animals is assigned in turns every year and the Japanese traditionally
decide Nengajou's design using the chosen animal of the year. The
number of people sending Nengajou is decreasing and online e-mails
have been used alternatively these days. Although it is quite a big
job to make nengajou, it is a delight to receive them and many people
still send them every year. When was the custom of Nengajou started?

Since humanity started living as agricultural society, ephemeris
calendar was invented to know the time for seeding and harvest. Even
though the dates vary depending on the cultural area, every single
culture has a custom to celebrate for safe and pray for health. The
Chinese calendar which was introduced from Baekje (a kingdom located
in southwest Korea peninsula in the 6th century) was adopted by the
Yamato Dynasty in the early 7th century in Japan.

At the same time, the papermaking method was brought from Goguryeo
(a state country nation which is located in the northern and eastern
parts of China and the southern and central parts of Korea). As part
of the political reform in the 7th century, the system called
"Hiekishi" was started. It was sending letters from the station in the
capital city, Kyoto to other stations in nearby states using horses.
Another new system was started in the same year that the emperor
received New Year's greetings from vassals on the New Year's Day.

In the Nara period (8c), "Nenshi mawari" which means making visits to
people for New Year greetings was started. This event became every
year's regular custom in nobles and court nobles in the Heian period
(8-12c) and they started sending letters alternatively to the people
who lived too far to visit.

As New Year's greetings were included in a book of letter samples
which are compiled at the end of the Heian period (8-12c), it is
believed that the original form of Nengajou, New Year letter had
already existed among people in the noble class by this time.

Some set phrases which were written in the New Year letters sent
between generals in the Sengoku period are still being used today. In
the Edo period (17-19c), not only the people in samurai classes but
also many other people sent New Year letters to each other, which was
conveyed by express messengers or servants.

The current postal mail system was established in 1871. Because
postcards didn't exist at that time, New Year's greetings were written
in a letter instead of today's Nenga Hagaki (New Year Post card).
Nenga hagaki was first sold in 1873 and these cheap and convenient
cards became popular rapidly. And since a special postal service was
established in 1899, the style has changed to the current way that
postcards are posted into a post box in December and being sent on the
New Year's Day. Before this special service, Nengajou , which
originally used to replace the New Year's visits, was used to be
written after New Year's Day.

Here is another tanka, written by Kodai no Kimi compiled in Goshuishu

"Ikaninete Okuruasani Iukotozo Kinouwo kozoto Kyouwo kotoshito"
Interpretation: I wonder how I went to bed to make yesterday into last
year and today into this year.

Changing date from New Years Eve to the New Year is in fact only
becoming a new day like any other days. However if you break out of
the routine, you can feel a brand new start. In Christian countries,
people usually include New Year's greeting messages in Christmas cards.
How about in your country? Does your country have a custom to greet
for a new year like Japanese Nengajou? Let's appreciate having a new
year again this year and wish for a healthy and happy life in 2016.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Zeze-Yaki: Zeze ware

Translated by: Hiromi Fujii

2) Tosa Uchihamono: Tosa Blade

Translation by: Miwa Odagiri, reviewed by Yoshiko Nagao

3) Kishu Bina: Kishu Dolls

Translation: Rikuo Koike, reviewed by Naoko Yamashita

4) Hakata Ningyo: Hakata Dolls

Translation by: Rikuo Koike

5) Kaga-mizuhiki: Kaga Paper Cord Ornament

Translation by: Yoshinori Sakamoto

6) Banshu Soroban: Banshu Abacus

Translation by: Mana Hara, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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