JTCO strives for inheritance, creation and development of Japanese traditional culture.

JTCOJapanese Traditional Culture Promotion&Development Organization
日本語 | English
Newsletter Back Number

Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on June 17, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 68] June 17, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 68]
June 17, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Plant:
The mystery of iris

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Shidoro-Yaki: Shidoro Ware
2) Tsugaru Tako: Tsugaru Kite

:: 1. Seasonal Plant

"Samidare ni sawabe no makomo mizu koete izure ayame to hikizo
wazurau" (From "Taiheiki" Vol.21 by Minamotono Yorimasa)

Translation: The fifth month rains swamp the wild rice along the shore,
making it hard to tell irises from one another and pull just one.

The hana-shobu (water iris) is the June flower as well as the blooming
before hydrangeas. The shobu (sweet flag) as we described in the
issue 24 (May 31, 2014) belongs to the araceous plant whose leaves are
used for scenting the bath are different from the hana-shobu which
belongs to the iridaceae. The name of hana-shobu is originated from
the sword-like leaves which are close to those of shoubu (sweet flags
and its flowering species).

As described in this waka song, the shobu is also pronounced as ayame
in Japanese. There are "ayame"(iris) and "kakitsubata"(water iris),
both belong to the iridaceae. The ayame blooms from the beginning to
middle of May on the dry grassland, slightly earlier than the
hana-shobu which blooms on the swamp edge. In nationwide "ayame
festivals", most of flowers which we enjoy are hana-shoubus. It is
slightly confusing because the shobu shares the same kanji with the
ayame. Also, the kakitsubata blooms in the water in the middle of May.

It is said that a proverb "Either the ayame or the kakitsubata", which
means the difficult situation to choose a better flower between the
two, was originated from the opening waka song. It was written by
Minamotono Yorimasa, the late Heian era warlord. Retired emperor Toba
decided to grant him a beauty "Ayame-no-mae" whom Yorimasa was in love
with as a reward for shooting down a "nue", the monster which appeared
at Imperial Palace every night. Mischievous emperor prepared 12
beauties in the same clothes aiming to confuse Yorimasa for choosing
her. Having trouble with finding his beloved one, he created this
waka song. He was also known as a prominent poet, as we see his
excellence in a pun between the flower "ayame" and the word "ayame
(means "distinguishing something" in Japanese)".

However, please note makomo, or Manchurian wildrice, also appearing in
this song. Makomo is the poaceous plant that grows in the wetland,
while its sword-shaped leaves look like those of shobu, araceous
plants. It means that Yorimasa might have referred to shobu, which
has somber flower, and whose leaves look similar to makomo. Thus, the
origin of the proverb "Either the ayame…" slightly seems like
twisting the truth.

Though various misinterpretations had emerged over centuries from
those flowers similar appearances and names, it does not mean they
would spoil the beauty of irises. It is also fun to watch flowers
with imagination, wondering if "Ayame no mae" was a beauty matching
well with purple clothes.

Translation by: Eri Hara, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Shidoro-Yaki: Shidoro Ware

Shidoro-yaki is made of clay containing a lot of iron which is gained
in its main production site. It makes the ware unique with its sober,
yellowish color on a brownish-red surface along with its deep brown

Translation by Hiromi Fujii, reviewed by Marina Izumi

2) Tsugaru Tako: Tsugaru Kite

The Tsugaru tako is a traditional handcrafted kite made of thinly
chopped Hiba trees (Thujopsis tree) adorned with traditional Tsugaru
style paintings. The kites are large in size, just under two single
size mattresses put together.

Translation by: Monica Shingaki

Copyright by Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion and
Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

To subscribe/unsubscribe to our Newsletter, or to change your
registered email address, please visit:

JTCO Newsletter "Delivery of Seasonal Tradition"Experience Japan with you tour guide!Find us@Facebook