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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on August 10, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 70] August 10, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 70]
August 10, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Pattern:
Indispensable to shave ice: Plovers with waves

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Kyo-nui: Kyoto Embroidery

:: 1. Seasonal Pattern

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, composed by Minamoto no
Kanemasa, compiled in No.270 in the winter part of Kinyo Wakashu
(Knyo anthology of waka poems, 12c).

"Awaji shima Kayou chidorino naku koeni Ikuyo nezamenu Sumano

Interpretation: I wonder how many nights the gate keeper in Suma was
woken by the plover's plaintive cries as they flew over from Awaji
island in the winter nights.

In the Japanese summer, the temperature goes up to nearly 40℃ (140F)
every year. Foods that cool down the body are very much appreciated.
Sea houses or stalls in festivals that sell shave ice often hang a
sign with pattern of "Plovers with waves". This very common
traditional summer pattern evokes cool feeling amongst the Japanese

Since ancient times, flock of small birds in fields or watersides,
especially a species of plover are being called "Chidori", which means
a lot of birds. These adored birds were used as a symbol of the
seaside in the winter. "Chidori" is a season word for winter in
Japanese traditional poems and its cry emphasizes the loneliness of
the winter sea. It was often depicted that it cried to long for its
wife or friends in tanka.

Flowing water, splash of wave and soaring plovers are very common
patterns being printed on summer's clothing which could cool down the
body. We can feel the coolness from the pattern, however, when those
knowing about traditional Japanese poems see the pattern, they may
think of the wintery scenes being sung in those poems and cool down

The waterfront birds such as seagulls and cormorants were also
familiar birds at that time but they were not used as a pattern
traditionally. Sei Shonagon sang in the Pillow Book (an essay style
book about the imperial court written in 1002) in the 15th paragraph,
"Nanimo nanimo, chiisaki monowa ito utsukushi (Interpretation:
Everything which is small is adorable.)". From ancient times, Japanese
people have found beauty from small and adorable things like plovers
and applied the pattern into designs to colour our life.

The pattern, dancing myriad plovers, was abstracted and then became
"Chidori Goshi (houndstooth check)". It was often drawn in paintings
in the Heian period (8-12c). It also appears in one of the National
Treasures of Japan, "Ban Dainagon Emaki" made in the late Heian period
as a common people's kimono pattern. However, it cannot be seen on
nobles' clothing. It must have been a prevalent pattern only for the
ordinary people.

A cool sensation can be created easily with technology like air
conditioning or a refrigerator today. But can we now see plovers
dancing by the waterside as a scene that creates a cool feeling? When
giving a thought to the ancient Japanese people, we cannot help but
respect the people who used their knowledge and good sense to get
through the summer, especially when electricity saving is being highly
concerned in recent years.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1)Kyo-nui: Kyoto Embroidery

Embroidery is a type of decorating technique on fabric in which motifs
are expressed with a needle and a variety of colorful threads. The
technique is one of the most significant in the history of dyeing and
textiles in Japan. When added on dyed kimono or fabric, embroidery
enriches the luxuriousness of the work.

Reviewed by Yoshiko Nagao

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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