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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on December 19, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 85] December 19, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 85]
December 19, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal custom:
A present with sincere gratitude: Oseibo

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Ako dantsu (rug/carpet)

:: 1. Seasonal custom

This time, while the end of the year is coming, there is a traditional
custom called "Oseibo" in Japan. People send a present to someone who
took care of them to express their gratitude for the year. The official
name is "Seibo no rei".

Someone says that it may originate from Chinese tradition. In China,
people celebrate for the god of heaven on "Jogen", (15th January),
"Chugen (15th July)"and "Kagen (15th October)". This custom was brought
into Japan and developed into the custom that sending offerings with
their wish to welcome back their ancestor's sprits in ancent times.
These offerings were sent from the family whose daughter was married
into or branch family to the head family. It was also sent to neighbours
or any people who had connection with the family.

In the Genroku period (17c) of Edo era, Oseibo had started to be sent
to the leader of the samurai association. Merchants took this custom
into their lives and started to send Oseibo to people who helped them
and also to their regular customers. Shops today often choose hand towels
and calendars with the shop's name printed as Oseibo. It is said to be
the remains of the old days.

The following description was written in Saijiki (a list of kigo
(seasonal terms) used in poetry and haiku) published in 1688.

Interpretation: Why don't we send a present to relatives at end of
the year. Also to the one who is lonely and suffers from poverty,
the one that you have been looking after, your instructor, teacher,
group leader, the doctor who cured you or your family's illness...to
everyone, send presents with your sincerest gratitude.

Like this description, Oseibo became a present which is to sent to
a lot of people who had cared for us in everyday life.

This custom passed from one generation to the next and the Japanese is
still sending Oseibo with gratitude every year to the people who helped
them, superiors and subordinates, friends and mates. Oseibo is wrapped
with a wrapping paper which is called Noshi or Mizuhiki [1]. It put the
meaning that those symbols tie the sender's soul onto the present.
There has been a Shinto belief about "Tying" since ancient times. If
you tied something, a soul dwells in the knot. Oseibo is wrapped with
Noshi and Mizuhiki because it is profoundly related to the belief of
tying which shows the Oseibo is not a usual present but a sacred gift
with sender's gratitude.

As it is written in the referred article, Noshi's original name is
Noshi Awabi (Awabi means abalone). The original Noshi was a processed
abalone which was stripped, dried, and then stretched into a ribbon
with cylindrical stuff such as bamboo. It was sent with wishes of
perpetual youth and longevity, long life and prosperous business as
a top grade present for both the sender and the receiver. It is
substituted by easy and simple version today made with celluloid or
resin, however, we can clearly tell that how the Japanese placed value
on it with the fact that it used to be made of actual abalone.

As Oseibo, daily necessities like alcoholic drinks, food, laundry
detergent and towel are popular products to be chosen. Recently, fresh
food being sent from the producer directly by chilled delivery is also
getting popular. Although it takes labour and time to think about what
to send as well as to go through the procedures of transport, it is
very pleasant to receive Oseibo with gratitude as the gift of a year.
Isn't it a lovely Japanese custom?

[1] Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 81] July 11, 2017 1.
Seasonal Taste: Hidden in the Noshi wrapping paper: Abalone

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Ako dantsu (rug/carpet)

Along with Nabeshima (Saga prefecture) and Sakai (Osaka prefecture),
Ako is counted as one of three famous dantsu (rugs/carpets) in Japan.
Dantsu features the distinctive pattern with interweaved lines and
curves that create delicate and beautiful colors.

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