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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on December 18, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 74] December 18, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 74]
December 18, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Food:
Being worshipped as the incarnation of god: salmon

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Token: Japanese Sword
2) Edo Furin: Edo Wind Chime

:: 1. Seasonal Food

Here is a Haiku written by Matsuo Basho.
"Yukino asita Hitori karazakewo Kamietari"
Interpretation: The rich eats fine meats and the young eats root
vegetables. So what do I, the poor haiku poet, eat? I am chewing
dried salmon by myself in a snowy morning.

Taisetsu, during a period of 15 days from December 7th to winter
solstice on the 24th divides the solar year calendar, it is said that
this is the season that schools of salmon go upstream. Salmon reminds
Japanese people of autumn salmon (which go back to the river where
they were born in the most Northern area or Hokkaido (Northern Japan)
for spawning) or cold area. However, salmon actually only go upstream
between October and December. Salmon start migration in the Northern
countries such as Hokkaido and then slowly go down to the south
towards Fukuoka prefecture (Southern Japan) located beside the Sea of

Salmon has been an important source of food in cold areas specially
Hokkaido and Tohoku area. In a town called Yajima located in the
middle of Koyoshi Gawa River in Southern Akita prefecture (Northern
Japan), "Sakeishi", the stone with carvings of fish were excavated.
Those stones were made for wishing a big catch of salmon in the Jomon
period (B.C.145-B.C.3c).

Because ancient people believed that salmon swam back towards their
hometown relying on stones in rivers, there are so many mythologies
related to stone and salmon mainly in the Japanese seacoast area. One
part of Miyako city in Iwate prefecture (Northern Japan) used to be
called "Tsugaru (city located in north western Aomori Prefecture,
Northern Japan) Ishi (Stone) village". This name was given from the
story about salmon and the monk called Kobo.

In a cold night, a monk named Kukai (Kobo Daishi, a well-known
Japanese monk in the beginning of the Heian period, 8c) was welcomed
with kind hospitality by the villagers. He then threw a Tsugaru stone
into the river as a token of his gratitude when he left the village.
After that, many salmons started swim-ming up into the river just like

Salmon fishing was a crucial job to make a living for the Ainu people
(the indigenous people of Hokkaido and Sakhalin) and they called
salmon "Shipe (The true fish)" or" kamuy-chep (fish of god)". It was
an indispensable staple for them to live. They fished only male salmon
or female salmon that had finished laying eggs. Salmon was a very
valuable food during winter for themselves as well as for wild foxes
and bears. They did not monopolize but shared salmons with wild
animals as they followed rules of Ainu mythology.

It was not only Ainu people who worshipped salmon but there are also 9
shrines for worship in Honshu and Kyushu. The most Southern place that
salmon migrate is Ongagawa River in Fukuoka prefecture. There is a
Salmon shrine in this river basin and a festival called Kenkeisai
(offering salmon to god) being held on 13th December every year. The
shrine parishioners believe that salmon is minister therefore they do
not eat salmon even it is tinned salmon.

More than half of the salmon we eat nowadays are cultured. Salmon
cultivation in Japan started in Murakami Domain in Echigo-no-kuni
(present day Murakami city in Niigata prefecture, Central Japan) in
the Edo period (18c). Wild salmon came upstream into Miomotegawa River.
Before the cultivation started, wild salmon had been fished
unlimitedly there but it made the catch gradually become poorer. It
became a problem for Murakami Domain where salmon fishing was the main
source of income.

However, members of Murakami Domain had realised the salmon's trait,
they have a homing instinct to return to their homegrown river. He
suggested making a man-made diversion in the river to help their
spawning as well as banning people from catching in spring, during
which young salmon is going down-stream. This project carried on for
30 years and eventually number of salmon caught increased by five
times. This saved the domain's financial situation. In Murakami city,
there are more than 100 kinds of traditional salmon recipes to make
good use of salmon.

Salmon is a well-balanced nutritious food especially to warm up the
body in the winter. In the Haiku in the opening paragraph, it
described that Basho was eating dried salmon which is a wintery
season word. It seems that he was trying to take in salmon to get
energy for a whole day activity in a cold day of winter.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Token: Japanese Sword

There are two swordsmith groups which represents Higo (present day
Kumamoto Pref, Southern Japan): the Enju school which is famous for
Kikuchi Senbon Yari (spears invented by Kikuchi clan in 14c for
collective combats), and Doutanuki school which created glorious and
sharp standing swords of Kumamoto Castle by earning the trust of KATO
Kiyomasa (the feudal lord in Higo Domain reigned from the
Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early Edo period, 16-17c).

Translated by: Junna Kawaguchi

2) Edo Furin: Edo Wind Chime

Edo Furin is the name of the glass wind chimes which have been made
since the Edo period (17-19c). Yoshiharu Shinohara, fifth generation
of the Edo Furin craftsman, named the glass wind bell "Edo Furin"
based on references in 1950s. Until then, glass wind chimes were
called "Garasu (glass) Furin" or "Bidoro Furin (Bidoro was the term
for glass used in the Edo period: originally vidro in Portuguese.)"

Translated by: Mie Nakajima, reviewed by Marie Mine

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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