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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on August 30, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 82] August 30, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 82]
August 30, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Flower:
Symbol of ugliness?: "Nashi (Asian Pear)"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Murayama Oshima Tsumugi
2) "Forging On: The Art of Sakai Blacksmiths" Part 1

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, tanka, compiled in "Manyoshu",
the Japanese oldest anthology(7-8c), No.2188 in Vol10.
"Momijibano Nioiwa shigeshi Shikaredomo TsumaNASHIno kiwo Tawori
Interpretation: Although the leaves have turned autumn red and yellow
beautifully, I pick a "Nashi (Asian pear)" twig to wear on my head as
I don't have (Nashi) a wife.

It is the season that pears are on the market again. The Asian pear is
different from European pear or Chinese white pear. Asian pear is in
round shape, juicy and with refreshing sweetness. It is indispensable
in autumn. Unlike the European varieties, they have a high water content.
It is the reason why Asian pear is generally served raw rather than
cooked. How this fruit became part of Japanese life?

Because many carbonised seeds of Asian pears were found in Toro
archaeological site which is the first archaeological site with the
remains of the latter Yayoi period(1c-3c), it is thought that it was
already being eaten during this era. It is also believed that the Asian
pear is the first fruit cultivated by people in Japan, since no other
fruit seeds were found in any archaeological sites with the remains of
earlier time. The places where the pears naturally grew are surrounded
by human areas of habitation as well. Its seeds were probably brought
into Japan from the Asian continent.

The first time the Asian pear appeared in literature was during the
Asuka period(6-8c). There is a description in which Empress Jito gave
the imperial edict to encourage cultivation of Asian pear besides
chesnuts and turnips in 693 in "Nihon-shoki (the oldest chronicles of
Japan)". In "Engishiki (book about law and customs compiled in Heian
period(10c))", the Asian pear was described as an offering for god in
ceremonies. It was sent from Yamanashi prefecture and Tottori prefecture,
which are still known as a pear production areas nowadays.

There are few versions about the origin of the name "Nashi (Asian pear)".
One of them saying that it is simplified from the word "Nakashiro"
(meaning white color inside in Japanese) since the flesh is white.
Another version said that "Nashi" is from the word "Nasu (sour inside)"
as it tastes sour sweet. However, the truth is still unknown. In the
Heian period(8-12c), the name "Nashi" was disfavoured as "Nashi" also
means "None or possess nothing". To avoid using this ominous bad luck
word, people created an alternate name "Ari no mi ("Ari" means having
something, "Mi" means fruit in Japanese)".

Not only the name was disliked by the Heian nobles. In The Pillow
Book (an essay about court people written by Sei Shonagon in 10c),
it is written about the flower of the fruit that "it is understandable
that the flower is described as the face of an unattractive women".
There is also an another phrase saying that "The flower is thought to
be worthless therefore we never appreciate it or tie it on a letter."
These wordings clearly show us how people at that time evaluated the
flower. In contrast, known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China,
the look that Yang Guifei is crying was compared to the flower of the
Asian pear in "Chang hen ge" (poem by Bai Juyi, written in 8c) in China.
Its white and pretty flower is a symbol of purity and a beautiful lady
for the Chinese. Sei Shonagon also compensated a little, saying the
colour of the petal tip is remarkable. The shape of the flower as well
as its way of blossoming are similar to the Cherry Blossom which blossoms
slightly earlier than the Asian pear, however, it was somehow disliked
by nobles in the Heian period.

Contrary to the unpopularity of the flower, it seems that the taste of
the fruit fascinated the people. There are descriptions about the pear
saying that "being brought as a gift when visiting others" in the
literature of the Kamakura period(12-14c), Murumachi period (14-16c)
and early Edo period(17c). It also appears in various gourmet books at
that time namely the "Honcho Shokkan" written in 1697. Because the
manufacturing technique was improved in the later Edo period (19c),
the cultivation method of Asian pears was mentioned in documents as
other fruits were. According to the record written in those days, more
than 100 kinds of Asian pear names can be mentioned which were cultivated
all over Japan.

The very juicy and sweet variety of Asian pear such as "Nijisseiki"
and "Chojuro" were discovered and were bred actively in the Meiji
period (19-20c). This introduced "Kosui", "Shinsui" and "Hosui",
which appeared after World War II.

Here is a tanka, compiled in "Dainagon Kintoshu" written by FUJIWARA
no Kinto in10c.
"Haru fukami Miyamaga kureno Hananashito Yuni tsuketemo Wakizo kanetsuru"
Interpretation: How long will you shut yourself at home? I know that
like an Asian pear, you blossom with flowers in spring and bear fruits
in autumn.

Although the Asian pear tree bears tasty fruits in autumn, it was not
appreciated in the flowery season in spring. We also do not know when
our glory days will come in our life. Even though your life may not go
as the way you expect, you should keep going the way you believe in
without being discouraged, eventually you could bear marvellous
fruits in the autumn of your life.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Murayama Oshima Tsumugi

The most distinctive feature of Murayama Oshima Tsumugi,a type of silk
fabric, is its pre-dyed kasuri threads--silk threads used to make
patterns and dyed with a unique dyeing technique, Itajime, a method
of making dyed patterns by pressing cloth between carved boards.

*kasuri: Fabrics woven with resist-dyed threads, commonly known as
"ikat" in Malay, characterized by blurred or brushed patterns.

Translation by Tae Yamaguchi

2) "Forging On: The Art of Sakai Blacksmiths" Part 1

A visit to Izumi Riki Seisakujo in Sakai, Osaka Japan
Laura Wheatley / Travel Photographer (words and photos by Laura

Forged knives have been sought after and revered worldwide for years,
which, once you know the process involved, it's not hard to see why!
Recently I ventured into the old blacksmith neighborhoods of Sakai
to uncover this masterful art.

Although metalworking was introduced more than 1000 years ago, the city
had begun to receive true acclaim around the mid-1500's. As a port city,
Sakai frequently saw a great amount of trade. Tobacco and guns were
popular, brought over from the Portuguese.

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