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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on March 28, 2018
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 88] March 28, 2018

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 88]
March 28, 2018
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal plant:
A symbol of longevity which drives away monsters: Peach flower

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Shuro Houki:hemp-palm broom

:: 1. Seasonal plant

If I would not get bored, I may wear a peach flower on my hair for
one thousand years from now. As peach tree bears its fruits once three
thousand years, its flowers would not change and spring would
never end too.
(Vol.128, Haru, the second volume, Goshuishu in 1086, written by
KIYOHARA no Motosuke)

The Japanese traditional celebration, girl's festival on March 3rd, is
called Hinamatsuri but it is often called "Momo no Sekku (Peach
Festival)" too. March 3rd on the lunar calendar is equivalent to the
beginning of April on the currant solar calendar. It means the event
used to be held during the season when peach flowers fully blossomed
and it was the reason why it is called "Peach Festival" as well. However,
March 3rd on the calendar now is February on the lunar calendar therefore
it is unfortunately not the season of peach flower at all. It seems
that the peach flower lost sense of the season and gets only a little
attention between Japanese apricot and cherry blossom's blossoming
seasons. However, it seems that we cannot blame that only on its time
lag. In Man'yoshu (Oldest Japanese collection of poems), there are 116
poems related to Japanese apricot, 41 poems related to cherry blossom,
while there are only 7 poems related to peach. They are all from the
Rosaseae plant family and have similar appearances but we can clearly
tell that peach wasn't the kind of flower to impress the Japanese
people unfortunately.

However, peach stones have been found in the remains from the later
Jomon era (B.C.4 c- B.C.3 c). It seems that its fruits were not only
food for them but its tree was also handcrafted "Igushi (decorated
twig to offer for god during festivals)" as we can see that they have
both been found in the same remains. The plant has always been in
Japanese life and the idea of its use in religious festivals was
probably an imitation of Chinese ideology.

In ancient China, it was believed that the peach can ward off evil
sprits and its tree was a material of celestial's walking stick or amulet.
The poem in the opening paragraph is written about a peach called "Hanto
(medicine with power of eternal youth)" which was said to bear its fruits
once every three thousands years on the mountain of Kunlun. In the
mythology published in the 16th century called "Journey to the West",
there is a scene in which the main character, Sun Wukong, rampages to
steal the peach.

"To gen kyo (桃源郷, where is the origin of the peach)" is a Japanese
word meaning utopia or imaginary dream world. This word originated in
the story, "Tokagenki", written by a poet named To Enmei who was active
in 4-5 centuries. In the story, fisherman loses his way in a stream at
a deep mountain and strays into a peaceful utopia that is covered with
peach flowers in full blossom . It was believed that if you drink water
welling up there after floating a peach flower on it, you would get full
energy and a longevity in life of more than 300 years.

Mythologies and narratives about the peach influenced by Chinese thought
were written in Japan. There is a story about a male god called Izanagi
in Japan's oldest chronicle, "Kojiki". When he was running away from
the nether world, he threw three peaches to the thunder god and was
able to get rid of him. Delighted Izanagi gives the peach a god name
"Okamuzumi no mikoto" with his gratitude. Also, "Momotaro" is a folklore
all Japanese people know, written before the 15th century. There are
various versions of the tale, but the most common version read for
children is started as a prologue in which a peach floats down river
stream and then, Momotaro is born out of it.

Although it was used in ritual occasions as it was regarded as a sacred
object, the peach didn't get much attention compared to cherry blossoms
or Japanese apricot trees. The reason cannot be specified whether people
avoided it on purpose because it was holy, or the Japanese people
preferred the notion of a limited life rather than eternal life. Whatever
what the reason is, it is undeniable that the peach flower is just as
important as cherry blossoms and Japanese apricot tree for Japanese people.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Shuro Houki:hemp-palm broom

Shuro Houki, a hemp-palm broom, is a Japanese broom whose head is made
from the bark of a hemp-palm tree.This traditional Japanese broom is
said to have a long history dating back several hundred years.

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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