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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on February 28, 2018
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 87] February 28, 2018

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 87]
February 28, 2018
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal entertainment:
Human nature to roll a snowball? : "Yuki Darima (snowman)"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Koga Ningyo:Koga Doll

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

Here is a Haiku written by MATSUO Bash?.
"Kimi hiwo take Yokimono misen Yuki maruge"
Interpretation: Thank you for coming in the snow. Please light a fire
and brew tea. I will roll a snowball for you.

Despite its small land, the Japanese archipelago extends from north to
south. The climate varies across the region, from where the temperature
below freezing to a land of everlasting summer. Though it depends on
the climate of that year, most of the regions snow except the
southernmost part, we can see people making snowmen all over Japan.

When we get snow, it seems that people cannot help making a snowman
in any place all over the world. In Haag Library in Holland, we can
see a snowman shaped like a human wearing a hat in the records of
religious book, published in the 14th century. "Snow man "in Japanese
is "Yuki (snow) Daruma" and it doesn't have the meaning of neither
"man" nor "human". "Daruma" is a traditional doll modelled on the
sitting meditation pose of Bodhidharma who founded one type of Buddhism.
How come it was named as snow "Daruma" but "man"?

The oldest description of playing with snow is in Nihon Shoki (a Historical
record finished in 720). In the literature from the Edo period (8-12c),
there are scenes of people enjoying snow like "Komatsu biki", pulling
small pine tree leaves covered in snow, or a game of guessing the date
when the snow on the mountain would melt completely. Human shaped
snowmen had not appeared yet at this time, but they rolled snow to make
a firm sphere snow called "Yuki Maboroshi" as described in "Asagao"
in Tale of Genji in 12th century written by Murasaki Shikibu.

Interpretation: The moon light shines everywhere on a world of white.
Withered shrubs looks poor and the sound of stream sounded just like
sobbing. The ice of the pond is horrifyingly clear as well. Genji put
his little servant girl down in the garden and let her roll the snow.
(Asagao, chapter 20 in The Tale of Genji)

It depicts that grownups were adoring girls with colourful kimonos who
were rolling a snowball in their pure white garden. It says that they
rolled as much as they could until they wouldn't be able to move it
any more. It is very easy to imagine their excitement on a snowy day.

It has been since the Edo period (17-19c) that we can identify snowmen
visually in Japanese historical records. The snowmen depicted in Ukiyoe
pictures draw by UTAGAWA Hirokage and KIKUKAWA Eizan were not two round
snow sphere piled up but it was curved like a real Daruma shape. Its
eyes were charcoal balls and mustache was painted with ink. This very
realistic snow Daruma was treated as a bringer of good-luck just like
a real Daruma. It was even presented offerings such as fish. The snow
Daruma was not an imitation of Daruma for them. It was actually a
genuine talisman Daruma for them.

However its face had been simplified, it was still shaped as Daruma
even in the late Meiji era (19-20c) which had been strongly be influenced
by Western culture according to a Historical record. A snowman with
a hat, pipe and walking stick appeared in children's books in the Taisho
period (20c), and this smart snowman even had legs too. However, it was
interesting that it was still called "Yuki Daruma", not "Snow man".

Various unique snowmen are on social media again this year. Whether it
has meaning and purpose or not, snow gives everyone the desire to
create something in any countries or any generations. Although it may
cause inconvenience for our life, we cannot live without this enjoyment
in the winter, can we?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Koga Ningyo:Koga Doll

Along with the Fushimi doll of Kyoto and Tsutsumi doll of Sendai,
the Koga doll is considered one of three finest Japanese clay dolls.

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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