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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on March 14, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 65] March 14, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 65]
March 14, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
A bird carrying happiness: Tsubame (Swallow)

2. News from JTCO:
New articles -
1) Hira Shimizu Yaki: Hira Shimizu Ware
2) Tajima Banko Yaki: Tajima Banko Pottery

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

A bird carrying happiness: Tsubame (Swallow)

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, compiled in "Manyoshu" at
No.4144, composed by Otomo no Yakamochi.
"Tsubamekuru Tokininarinuto Kariganewa Kuni omoitsutsu Kumogakurinaku"
Interpretation: Wild gooses are crying behind the clouds, thinking
that the season swallows fly over has arrived and missing their

After winter birds fly to the North, swallows come to Japan. It seems
like they come for the cherry blossoms. Bird migration is commonly
known nowadays, however, the Japanese used to believe that swallows
came from another world to replace the wild goose.

Besides the mysterious myth of swallow's coming, the swallow has
also been a symbol of fertility and an easy delivery since ancient
China because they breed twice from spring to summer. In the oldest
fictional Japanese narrative called "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter",
the Princess Kaguya gave a difficult task to one of the suitors,
which is to bring a cowry shell laid by a swallow (in a folklore, it
was said that swallows lay the shell). The cowry shell is a beautiful
shiny shell and from its shape, it is symbolised as a woman. It was
even believed that if woman holds it while giving birth, she could
have an easy delivery and be blessed with an intelligent child. Of
course swallows never lay shells in the real life but it is very
interesting seeing that the swallow was believed to be a symbol of
fertility and an easy delivery.

The swallow has also been valued as a beneficial bird since ancient
times because it makes its nest where people live and eats hundreds of
pests such as mosquitos, flies and horseflies a day in the large
outbreak season. To protect themselves from their predators, they make
their nests in front of people's houses or shops where people often
come in and out. This behaviour turned into a belief that swallows are
bringing luck into people's house or a sign of thriving business. For
this reason, their nests are sometimes kept with care even after the
swallows have flown south.

"Busha" is a Shinto ritual in the New Year in which arrows are shot in
front of the Shinto altar to tell the fortune for that year, exorcise
evil spirits and pray for a good harvest. In the Busha festival which
is held in the Shirohige shrine in Kanagawa Prefecture (East Japan),
bird-shaped objects that are made with camellia brunches called
Tsubame (swallow) are hung. As soon as the last arrow is shot,
children compete to get this tsubame at the end of the festival. They
hang this at their doorway as a bringer of good luck for the year.
Despite this early spring event is being held earlier than the
swallow's flying season, swallow is treated as a bird that carries

There are several theories about the origin of the name of "Tsubame
(swallow)". One of them is "土食黒女 Tsuchi hami kura me" (Black bird
eating soil to make its nest ("me" means flock)) turned into "Tsubame".
Even though there is not much soil or food for them in cities today,
swallows work hard to make their nest and look after their chicks. As
a role model of hard working, shouldn't we work hard on our studies or
work like swallow in this spring?

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New articles released!

1) Hira Shimizu Yaki: Hira Shimizu Ware
Hira Shimizu Yaki has the longest history in Yamagata, known as "a
producer of ceramic art". It is said that the actual foundation of
Hira Shimizu Yaki was in the middle Edo-era(17-19c), and the simple
texture has been attracting lots of people.


Translation by: Miwa Odagiri, reviewed by Marina Izumi

2) Tajima Banko Yaki: Tajima Banko Pottery
"Tajima Banko Pottery" is all hand-made and the texture differs one
by one. The old yet unique hand forming technique using fingerprints
as part of the pattern give the pieces energy and a feeling of warmth
within its roughness.

One of the characteristics of "Tajima Banko Pottery" is that they are
fired at a high temperature without glazing. For that reason, the
fingerprints remain visual and the light color of unglazed pottery
gives each piece a remarkable impression.


Translation by: Eimi Yagasaki, reviewed by Yoshiko Nagao

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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