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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on February 03, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 64] February 3, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 64]
February 3, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Weather:
White flowers falling down from sky: Snow

2. News from JTCO
Japanese crafts will appear in the Cherry Blossom Festival in
San Francisco!

:: 1. Seasonal Weather

White flowers falling down from sky: Snow

You may be surprised to hear that Japan has the most accumulation of
snow in the world even though the land is so small. The people who
live in heavy snow areas do snow shoveling everyday during winter.
Also, a lot of houses have an upstairs entrance because the door on
the ground floor is completely buried by snow. Apparently there used
to be even colder and heavier snow in the old days. How ancient people
see the snow and spend time during the winter season in the past?

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, compiled in Manyoshu (the
oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry,) No.2334, composed by
Kakinomoto no Hitomaro.
"Awayukiwa Chieni hurishike Koishikuno Hinagaki warewa Mitsutsu
Interpretation: I'm hoping that light snowfall covers the ground over
and over. My thought of you piles up like the snow does. I think of
you when watching this snow.

In the Manyoshu, there are more than 150 poems sung about snow and it
was described in various ways such as light snowfall, white snow,
heavy snow, first snow and so on. Most of them do not emphasise the
feeling of coldness or unhappiness, however, describing feelings or
scenes beautifully. For example, comparing transient snow to painful
longing love, the first snow to pray for good harvest for the year, or
describing the Japanese apricot as a metaphor for spring arrivals.

A lot of snow scenes were described in the literature of the Heian
period (8-12c) too. At that time, nobles lived in wood boarded
buildings without walls. The heating they were using was called Hioke
(a round shaped open-topped wooden container holding burning charcoal)
or subitsu (square shaped). They must have been pretty cold with just
those devices but somehow, there were not many negative expressions
about snow in the literature. In the Genji Monogatari (Japanese
literature written by the noblewoman) episode of "Asagao (Morning
glory)", a girl was put down on snowy ground in a garden to roll a big
snowball. And also in "Makura no soshi (essay about Heian nobles)",
scenes which show the welcoming of snow are often seen. For instance,
there was a scene in which blinds were rolled up high to see the snow,
and also the feeling of disappointment after it rained instead of
snowed on the event of confession in the imperial court was described.
We can see that they were actively enjoying snow instead of staying in
their rooms with fire.

There is a well-known folklore associated with snow called "Yuki Onna
(Sprit of snow woman)". Although it seems like the folklore originated
in Northern Japan where snow falls heavily, in fact Ehime prefecture
and Tottori prefecture located in Western Japan have similar sort of
folklores around snow. As the sound of snowstorm making at the door is
similar to the sound of someone knocking on the door, the Yuki Onna
stories usually describe an old couple without any children or a man
without a wife welcoming their awaited person. These folklores were
apparently made from people's fantasy of ephemeral snow. While nobles
were enjoying snow in their residence, common people living in
mountains were huddling round and waiting for spring.

As an elegant wintery symbol, snow crystal pattern is still popular.
Pre-era Chinese people were the first people who observed the snow
crystal. It was brought into Japan in the Heian period (8-12c) and
named Rikushutu (六出 (six bulging)). It changed to Rikka in the Nara
period (六花 (flower of six)). The snow crystal pattern was used as a
family crest or design on kimonos in the Edo period. An illustration
book that gathered snow crystal patterns observed with a microscope
was published in 1832 and it made the snow crystal patterns very
common. People at that time must have felt the mysterious art of
nature from every single snow crystal with its perfectly symmetrical
shape. In 1936, a Japanese physicist called Nakaya Ukichiro created
first artificial snow crystal in the history of the world. By
applying gravity to the ice crystal of rhombic dodecahedron, he was
able to make a beautiful hexagon.

Here is an another Tanka, compiled in Kokinshu, composed by Kiyohara
no Hukayabu who was a great grandfather of Sei Shonagon.
"Huyunagara Sorayori hanano Chirikuruwa Kumono anatawa Haruniya
Interpretation: Although it is still winter, flowers are falling down
from the sky. I guess spring has already arrived just over the clouds.

Spring with flower blooming is getting closer. No matter you live in a
place with snow or not, it is highly possibly most of people have not
seen the snow yet due to the warm winter this year. Still, let's enjoy
this winter by imagining that snow flowers are falling down from the
sky and also shining white snow scene until the real flowers blooming
on hills and fields.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO

Japanese crafts will appear in the Cherry Blossom Festival in
San Francisco!

Following Paris and London, JTCO introduced the genuine Japanese
crafts as well as Japanese style products in San Francisco's Japan Town
since last December.

At this year's Cherry Blossom Festival, held on April 9-10 and 16-17,
we will introduce broader variety of products at SANKO Cooking Supplies.
Please drop by and have a look at wonderful works & products.

Cherry Blossom Festival PR Video

Cherry Blossom Festival HP

Event Information

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