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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on November 27, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 84] November 27, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 84]
November 27, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal plant:
A symbol of love and life: Ginkgo tree

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Higo-Tsuba
2) Gunma Kokeshi Doll

:: 1. Seasonal plant

Here is a Tanka written by YOSANO Akiko (feminist author, poet in 20c).

"Konjiki no Chisaki tori no Katachishite Icho chirunari Yuhi no okani"

Interpretation: A leaf of Ginkgo is swirling down like a shining golden
bird illuminated by the sunset.

Autumn is in full swing and it is the time autumn beautifully tints
the tree leaves all over Japan. Autumn view is created by various colours
and kinds of trees such as red maple leaves, brown zelkova and beech
leaves, yellow ginkgo and populus leaves, which is appreciated by
Japanese people. There are 570 thousand ginkgo trees planted as
roadside trees. Actually the number of ginkgo tree is the most among
all the tree species in Japan. As ginkgo tree contains high water content,
they are fire resistant and being used as fire-preventing tree since
ancient times.

Ginkgo is one of the "Living Fossil" Gymnosperms plants that originated
in the Permian period (from 299 to 251 million years ago). In the
Mesozoic era, its seeds were carried all around the world by being
eaten by Herbivorous dinosaurs. But this natural system fell into decay
after the appearance of Angiosperms plants as well as the extinction of
Herbivorous dinosaurs. The only ginkgo species which could survive was
the ginkgo trees in Southern China apparently.

It was brought into Japan from China or the Korean Peninsula along with
the arrival of Buddhism during the Kamakura period (13c). The designated
tree as a national natural treasure, Shimoda ginkgo grows in Kumamoto
city in the Kumamoto prefecture. This tree is believed to be the age of
700 and was planted during the same era that the first ginkgo was
brought into Japan. Ginkgo is pronounced "Icho" in Japanese but
it is called "yajiao" in China. There is a saying that Japanese
misheard it as "Icho" so that it became the Japanese name.

After it was brought into Japan, the seed of the ginkgo was taken by
Engelbert Kaempfer (who happened to see it in the Nagasaki prefecture
in the Edo period (17c)) to Holland and then planted it in a botanical
garden in Utrecht. In the middle of 18th century, the writer Goethe
saw the tree when he was 66 years old. He sent a love letter with its
tree leaf from his garden to his girl friend who was 25 years old
younger than him. He thought the ginkgo tree represented their
inseparable love with the pattern of the leaf that two veins joining to
each other. Although they didn't work out as a couple, ginkgo is still
recognised as a symbol of love as well as friendship in Germany.

As it mentioned in the paragraph above, Ginkgo is outstandingly able
to resist fire and has been a vital tree to prevent from a myriad of
conflagrations and war fire since ancient times. It has been worshipped
as a symbol of reconstruction with this useful nature as well. For example,
Urasenke, one of the main schools of the Japanese tea ceremony, adopts
the emblem of ginkgo. It was because the ginkgo tree, planted by a
grandson named SEN no Rikyu, a famous tea master, has prevented
conflagrations happened in Kyoto dozens of times.

Other than that, the ability of the ginkgo's to survive is spectacular.
It grows a new trunk even though it had been burnt or even if its trunk
had fallen down. The big ginkgo that grows in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
in Kamakura city in the Kanagawa prefecture is the most well known
ginkgo tree in Japan as there is an historical myth that the assassin
of MINAMOTONO no Yoritomo (the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate
in 12c) was hiding behind it. The tree was blown down in a strong wind
in 2010, however, it started growing sapling again and is still
prospering today. It is said that this ginkgo tree has lived more than
800 years. Ginkgo tree is a symbol of vitality and peace and often
chosen as a designated tree in many prefectures, cities and universities.
This tree has been a part of Japanese life for a very long time.

A symbol of love and friendship in Germany or, a symbol of vitality
and peace in Japan… It seems that the German and Japanese view ginkgo
by different way as they do not have identical senses. YOSANO Akiko
expressed a whirling ginkgo leaf in the wind as golden little bird.
What will be the image of ginkgo in your mind in this autumn?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Higo-Tsuba

Higo-Tsuba is a sword-guard that was produced mainly in the Kumamoto and
Yatsushiro City areas of the Higo province (Higo was a Japanese province
in the former administrative divisions which lasted until late 19c
since 8c. It was situated in the area now known as Kumamoto prefecture,
located in the Kyushu region of southern Japan).

Reviewed by: Mavis.C.

2) Gunma Kokeshi Doll

Gunma Prefecture in eastern Japan boasts the largest production site of
Kokeshi dolls. In contrast to traditional Kokeshi dolls made in the
Tohoku region of Northern Japan, ones produced in Gunma are called
"modern Kokeshi dolls", due to their creative designs.

Translation by: Naoko Yamashita

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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