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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on November 21, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 73] November 21, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 73]
November 21, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Food:
The origin of the word "Shun (Seasonal food, the best season)": the
fish Hio

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Jindai-Goma: Jindai Spinning Top
2) Koshigaya-Katchu: Japanese traditional armor
3) Noto Jofu: Noto-jofu hemp fabric

:: 1. Seasonal Food

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, complied in "Kinyoshu",
composed by Minamoto no Tsunenobu.
"Tsuki kiyomi Sezeno ajironi Yoru hiowa Tamamoni Sayuru Korinarikeri"
Interpretation: In the river glistering under the clear winter moon, I
thought the sparkly things getting close to ajiro were Hio, but they
were just the ice reflecting on algae.

When the autumn is ending then you feel like preparing for the winter,
Hio fishing starts in Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture in the Kinki area
(West Japan). The lake's speciality fish, Hio is a juvenile sweetfish
inhabiting the lake for its lifetime without migration. However, it
used to be flowed into adjacent rivers when the lake got flooded.
Catching Hio with "ajiro" (a wickerwork made of bamboo or wood) was
recognised as a wintery tradition in Ujigawa River in Kyoto prefecture
(West Japan) a long time ago.

In chapter 23 of "Makura no soshi" (the Pillow Book: the collection of
short essays written by a female writer Sei Shonagon around 1,000 BC.
Her preferences are written in each chapter), "Haru no ajiro"
(Untouched ajiro in the river even though it was spring) was
introduced as one of her "hateful things" that spoils the mood. We can
see that the scene of Hio fishing with ajiro was a definite symbol
between late autumn to winter in Kyoto in those days. It also often
appears in plaintive and dreary scenes in classical literature. The
chapter 45 of "Tale of Genji" by Lady Murasaki, the world's oldest
novel published in 1008, is the story called "Hashihime (a bridge
deity)". There was a scene of a dingy villa inhabited by the Prince
Hachi no Miya. It was depicted that the villa was by a river where
an unpleasant sound of stream blocked by ajiro could be heard. And
more, the leading character, Kaoru, saw people who are catching Hio
in fog-shrouded Ujigawa River. Having seen this scene, he realised
that people had to live with such hopeless livelihoods and he
deeply felt vanity.

The profoundly loved symbol of autumn, Hio was often served in
banquets as a seasonal fish. It was also used as a present from the
emperor. It was apparently the emperor in the early Heian period
(8c) treated vassals to chrysanthemum sake as well as Hio after the
Tanka competition called "Chouyo no Sechie". This poetry reading event
was held on the 9th of September in the old calendar which is now late
October. Kyoto at that time must have been colder than now so that the
time of the event was already in the Hio season.

By the way, "Shun (Seasonal food, the best season)" used to be a word
meaning "10 days". "Shun" was originally used as a name for
parliamentary conferences and parties held by an emperor with his
vassals in their imperial court. This events were held on four days,
the 1st, 11th 21st (i.e. the first day of the "Shun"), as well as the
16th which is the first day of the last half of the month. Although,
the frequency was reduced to twice a year in the middle of the Heian
period. They were called "Mouka no Shun (the ceremony at the beginning
of summer)" which was on 1st April, and the second one was "Moutou no
Shun (the ceremony at the beginning of winter)" which was on 1st
October, respectively, together called "Nimou no Shun (the ceremonies
at the two beginnings)". At the ceremony of summer, fans were given
away to the guests, whereas Hio was served at the winter ceremony.
Since then, "Shun" subsequently became the word for the peak season
for things or foods. "Shun" is still commonly used by Japanese people
today but this fact of the origin of "Shun" is little known.

Hio fishery has decreased and it is now only carried out at Lake Biwa.
The wintery scene of ajiro fishing is impossible to be seen anymore
today unfortunately. Hio is written in Kanji as 氷(ice) and 魚(fish).
It is apparently named because its looks like ice. Does your country
have any fish that is a symbol of winter?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Jindai-Goma: Jindai Spinning Top

The Jindai spinning top is a traditional folk toy which has been
produced in Sadowara domain of the Shimazu clan (present day Miyazaki
prefecture, Southern Japan) long ago. In the Edo period (17-19c), it
is said that the Jindai spinning top was produced by samurai warriors
as a side job.

Translated by Kohei Nishimura, reviewed by Yoshiko Nagao

2) Koshigaya-Katchu: Japanese traditional armor

From the ancient time to Edo period (17-19c), katchus were originally
used as warrior armors from the enemies' attacks.
The word "甲冑 katchu" is composed with two Chinese characters which
"甲" means the armor and "冑" for the helmet.

Translated by: Yasuko Takisawa, reviewed by Eri Hara

3) Noto Jofu: Noto-jofu hemp fabric

Noto-jofu, a traditional hemp fabric which has been handed down around
central Noto area since the age of the gods, is one of the Japan's
finest handwoven natural hemp fabrics in terms of both quality and
quantity. The superior fabric is mainly produced in Hakui city,
Ishikawa Prefecture (Central Japan).

Translated by: Asuka Ikenouchi, reviewed by Tomoko Yamamoto

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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