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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on January 15, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 63] January 15, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 63]
January 15, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
Being respected as nobleman's companion to ride on: Crane

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Kasukabe Oshie Hagoita: Kasukabe's battledore with a padded cloth
2) TsutsumiYaki: Tsutsumi Pottery
3) Kaga Zougan: Kaga Inlay

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

Being respected as nobleman's companion to ride on: Crane

"When the tide in Wakanoura is full and cover the coast, cranes are
coming to the bank where reed is growing."
(Yamabe no Akahito, "Manyosyu", vol.6, p.919)

In the northern part in Japan, red-crowned cranes (also called as
"Japanese cranes") come when snowing begins, especially on January.
Some Japanese families use the motifs of cranes instead of symbolic
animal in coming year on Nengajo(a Japanese New Year's greeting card),
as good luck charms. Cranes are considered to be elegant and noble, so
motif of crane is indispensable for gifts in celebration such as a New
Year's day or wedding ceremony.

Red-crowned cranes have been sacred due to their grace appearance
since ancient times in the Orient regions. In Taoist stories, they
appeared as the incarnation of a hermit or his companion to ride, and
they also have been thought to be long-lived. In addition, the cars
that a hermit or the Crown Prince ride on were called "Kakuga ('Kaku'
means a crane)", to make the vehicles noble.

In "The Tale of Genji" (the world's oldest long novel written in Heian
period (794-1185)), artists leaving a banquet with white cloths, which
were given as rewards after their performance, were described as
following: 'I am about to mistake their cloths for the white fur of
cranes which lived for thousand years.' This description indicates
that cranes have been thought to live as long as thousands years in
Japan's Heian period.

Kakumon (one of the traditional family marks which identify their
origins) in which a crane is used as a motif has been decorated in
many kinds of objects from ancient times to today. The oldest crane
mark found in Japan is the one which was painted on an earthenware
found in the remains of a 8th century Imperial family's house. Crane
marks can also be seen in the cover of "Heike Nokyo" (Japanese
narrative scroll of Taira clan which was a major clan of samurai in
1660 and this scroll was collected by Itsukushima Shrine at the end of
Heian Period) and "Kitano Tenmangu Emaki" in Kamakura Period (Japanese
narrative scroll which tells the story about a shrine Kitano Tenmangu
in 1219). The first crane emblem on a warlord banner was painted in
"Moko Syurai Ekotoba" (a scroll which illustrates Mongol invasion in
Japan around 1185-1333) at the end of Kamakura Period.

Although crane marks have widely been used as the sign of shrine, a
court noble and samurai, the most familiar crane mark in Japan is
probably the logo of JAPAN AIRLINES ("JAL"). There is an interesting
episode about this logo called "Tsuru Maru".

When JAL requested a French famous designer to create a logo of their
company, he told them that "I know you have an amazing tradition", and
he suggested to use a crane mark. After that, a Japanese designer has
designed a logo based on a crane mark. The monogram of Louis Vuitton
were said to be derived from a Japanese traditional mark as well.
These incidents imply how profound French people's knowledge was.

The most Japanese traditional cranes are red-crowned cranes, although
other species also fly to Japan for wintering. The poem stated above
was written in Wakanoura, the famous spot of Wakayama Prefecture, in
western Japan around from the latter half of 7th century to the latter
half of 8th century. Red-crowned cranes might have come to the Western
Japan at that time.

In Edo period (1603-1868), there was a specific place for red-crowned
cranes to fly near Edo, which is now Tokyo. The government used to set
bamboos around there and sent guards to feed and protect crowns from
October to March.

In addition, a falconry to hunt cranes called 'Tsuru Onari' was taken
place by the 9th general called Tokugawa Ieshige. It was especially
held in the middle in January, and 2 or 3 falcons used to hunt one
crane. This hunting was considered to be the most important falconry
and the crane meat was delivered to Kyoto as a gift to the Imperial
Court and cooked for breakfast on a New Year's day.

Now we cannot see crown that lives in the nature unless we go to the
specific places. Would they come back to Tokyo again if the
environment was recovered? Since ibises had once confronted the
extinction crisis and come back after that as well.

Ancient people would look up the sky, imaging beautiful cranes with
wishes and hopes for the peace and happiness over the next year. We
hope you enjoy a brilliant time in 2016.

Translation: Junna Kawaguchi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Kasukabe Oshie Hagoita: Kasukabe's battledore with a padded cloth

"Oshie Hagoita" is a battledore made of Kiri, paulownia wood,
decorated with Oshie , a beautiful padded cloth picture. (Usually a
hagoita, battledore, is used for a badminton-like game with a
shuttlecock. However, a colorfully ornamented hagoita like Oshie
Hagoita is primarily for the decoration in the house during the New
Year's festivities.)

Translation by: Mie Nakajima, reviewed by Moe Shoji

2) TsutsumiYaki: Tsutsumi Pottery

Tsutsumi Yaki is a sort of pottery made in Sendai, centered around
simple everyday utensils such as dishes, pots, sake cups, sake bottles
and tea cups. It is deeply involved with Sendai. It is made from the
clay taken locally. The glaze is made from rocks and rice hull ash. It
has a simple yet strong flavor.

Translation by: Satomi Hirasawa Yamashita, reviewed by Misaki Kobayashi

3) Kaga Zougan: Kaga Inlay

Zougan (inlay) is a decoration technique to carve patterns on material
such as metal, ware ceramic, or wood and etc., and insert gold, silver,
and other materials into the carved parts there. Metal zougan is
important as one of the metal-carving techniques and there are many
zougan techniques including hira zougan (Japanese "hira" means flat
and hira zougan is literally flat zougan; a method of making the
surface of a zougan work flat after fitting metal into the model),
which is the mainstream of "Kaga Zougan".

Translation by: Mie Nakajima, reviewed by Miwa Odagiri

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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