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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on May 29, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 79] May 29, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 79]
May 29, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Creature:
A brave man with funny dancing: Mantis

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Sanuki Norizome
2) Karatsu Yaki : Karatsu Ware
3) Ise netsuke : miniature wooden sculptures
4) Koito yaki : Koito pottery

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, compiled in
chapter two, No.331, in "Ryojin Hisho (Songs to Make the Dust
Dance on the Beams, an anthology of Japanese poetry songs)".

"Okashiku maumonowa Konagi, Konaraha, Kurumano-do tokaya,
Byodo-in naru Mizuguruma, Hayaseba Maiizuru Iboziri. "
(Interpretation: The things that have an interesting dance
are shrine maiden, an acorn leaf, a wooden axle on a wheel,
as well as a water wheel in Byodo-in Temple and a mantis or
snail which appears with the rhythm.)

This period is named 芒種 (Mangzhong, Grain in Ear, or Boshu
in Japanese) under the 24 term in solar calendar. The first
5 days of Mangzhong is called "TouRouShouzu", the period
that Mantis are born. For us today, the mantis is a ferocious
insect as it is a carnivorous insect. How did ancient people
imagine the mantis to be like?

When the mantis preys, it stands ready with its forelegs in
front of its body and remains stationary. This pose reminded
not just Western people but also the Orient people of praying.
It has a dialect name, "Ogami mushi (Praying insect)" in
many local areas in Japan. It is called a "Praying mantis"
in English too. Because it preys on pests in fields, it is
regarded as a beneficial insect in rural areas. It seems it
also appears as a goody in folks or legends in Africa or
other countries around the world.

"Ryojin Hisho", introduced in the opening paragraph, is a
collection of songs that Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa
compiled of popular songs in those days called "Imayo"
in the late Heian period (12c). In the collection, mantis is
neither a monk nor a nun but a dancer moving around delightfully.
It is not imaginable for us today, however, the way the
mantis' forelegs go up and down must have been seen as dancing
for the people at that time. Mantis is written as "蟷螂",
pronounced "Kamakiri" in Japanese today but even though
it's the same kanji characters, it used to be pronounced
"Iboziri", which means plucking a wart. It was from a
folk belief that letting a mantis bite a wart, it would
come out. Whether it is true or not, there must have been
people who actually did it as it actually had the common name

There is an idiom, "Mantis' axes", with a meaning of
futile resistance. It originated from Chinese classics.
A king called Zhuang II in the state of Qi went hunting.
He came across an insect which raised its axes towards his
cart. He asked his coachman what the name of this insect was,
and he was told that it was a mantis which only knows going
forward but never going backwards. The coachman also said it
did not know its own capability so it underestimated enemies.
And then, Zhuang II spoke "If it was a man, he would
definitely become a brave man who could conquer a whole country."
Skillful soldiers were aroused by their king's word and
swore themselves to fight for him with all their strength
to the end apparently.

One of the processions of floats in Gion Festival in Kyoto
prefecture (the thousand-year capital located in the Kansai
region) is called "Toro Yama (float of the mantis)".
This is the only float which carries a decoration on top
of the float body in the festival. This float which loads
the automated mantis' puppet as well as wheels on the
automated carriage has been popular from ancient times.
It was even created 650 years ago for a samurai called
SHIJO Takasuke who immolated himself in a war. His descendants
made the float for him which carried an actual mantis on
top of the float as a symbol of Takasuke reflecting from
the Chinese fable.

Praying in silence, dancing cheerfully or confronting an
enemy bravely... The mantis has been busy in Japanese history.
In fact, it shows us that the mantis has been in Japanese
life and the Japanese have been charmed by it. Are there any
idioms related to the mantis in your country?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Sanuki Norizome

n Sanuki Norizome (paste-resist dyeing method), sticky rice
paste is used for masking fabric in its process. By masking
with the paste, the colors do not mix and each color comes
out clearly on the design.
There are two main dyeing methods, "Tsutsugaki" (Hand-drawing)
and "Kata zome" (Stencil dyeing) in Sanuki Norizome.
In "Tsutsu gaki" (Hand-drawing), the glue made from sticky
rice paste is filled into a cone-shape tube which is made from
processed Japanese paper with persimmon tannin coating. Then
the glue is squeezed out of the tube and carefully put on the
outline of the design. Dynamic hand-drawn lines create a
unique warmness and richness.

Translation by Naoko Yamashita

2) Karatsu Yaki : Karatsu Ware

The appeal of Karatsu Yaki (Karatsu ware) is its simple
beauty as a tool for daily life. It has the "beauty of service"
that is manifested through its functionality -- for serving
food and for flower arrangement. A unique warmth and strength
can be felt from the raw clay, which is rough and austere.

The glaze used for Karatsu Yaki is "wood ash glaze", which,
as the name suggests, is made of wood ashes. It is used as the
basic glaze for Egaratsu (Brush decorated Karatsu ware) and
Muji-garatsu (Plain Karatsu ware), as well as most other types
of Karatsu ware. The second most commonly used glaze is straw
ash glaze, which makes use of the cloudy nature of straw ash.
It is used for Madara-garatsu (Mottled Karatsu ware), and for
layering with black amber glaze when making Chosen-garatsu
(Korean-style Karatsu ware). Apart from these types of glaze,
iron glaze is also often used to make pots.

Translation by: Mie Nakajima, reviewed by Mavis Chng

3) Ise netsuke : miniature wooden sculptures

Netsuke (literally meaning roots to attach) is a button-like
toggle which men in pocketless kimono use. It is in the form
of the stopper used for safely fastening hanging belongings
such as sash-type purse, pipe, tobacco pouch and inro
(pillbox) to prevent dropping. They put them on their robes'
sashes to hang belongings by cords.

It is said that netsukes were originated about 400 years ago.
In the early era, their designs were simple but as time went
by, artisans produced more elaborately designed netsukes that
evolved from practical tools to artworks.

Translation by: Eri Hara

4) Koito yaki : Koito pottery

Koito-yaki (Koito pottery) uses two types of clays as its
"clay body", a mixture of clays to form a specific pottery.
It uses mainly the local clay dug from a mountain in Hida
Furukawa, a town about 20km north of Takayama City (Gifu
Prefecture, central Japan), and additionally Gairome clay
(a type of kaolin) from Seto City (Aichi Prefecture, bordered
by Gifu) to increase refractoriness of the clay body.

Koito pottery is basically glazed with "Irabo glaze", which
is a traditional, brown glaze and known for its somewhat
coarse texture.

Translation: Tae Yamaguchi

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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