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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 12, 2018
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 92] July 12, 2018

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 92]
July 12, 2018
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Plant:
A flower with Purity and bravery: Nadeshiko (Dianthus)

:: 1. Seasonal Plant

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, Waka, written by OTOMO no Yakamochi
from Vol.18, No.4114 in Man'yoshu the oldest collection of waka from
the 7th and 8th century.
"Sekichikuga Hanamirugotoni Otomeraga Emaino nioi Omooyurukamo"
Interpretation: Whenever I see a dianthus, It brings back the memory
of how beautiful the girls' smiles are.

The Japanese women's national football team is usually called by the
nickname "Nadeshiko (dianthus) Japan". They have participated in all
seven FIFA Women's World Cups so far, and won the final in 2011.
In 2015, they could not make it to the top against the American team,
however, finished as a runner-up. Their dignified play, caring and
kindness towards fellow teammates and even for other team players, and
also their sincere smiles attracted viewers all around the world. They
are expected to be very successful at the world cup in France next year.

At the end of the FIFA world cup 2019 in early July, Dianthus starts
blooming and lasts until September. "Yamato Nadeshiko (Japanese Dianthus)"
is the eulogistic name of Japanese women with class and solid thought.
The image perfectly matches the Dianthus in that although it is not
the most elegant kind of flower, it has pretty and graceful petals
which finely split, and also a robust and dignified appearance. We can
understand that it has been loved especially by Japanese since the
Man'yo period (7c), and recognised as a flower that reminds them of
someone he/she loves. It was used in "Nadeshiko-awase" during the Heian
period (8c) which is a game in which two groups of people compete who
has the better Dianthus and waka (Japanese traditional poem). It was
decorated in rooms as a flower arrangement in the Kamakura (12c) and
Muromachi (14c) periods, and was bred and improved to create a variety
of different kinds during the Edo period (17c).

Dianthus originated in Japan, the Korean Peninsula and China. Specific
kinds of Dianthus grow wild in Japan such as Superbus Dianthus and are
called "Yamato (an ancient name for Japan) Nadeshiko (Dianthus)".
"Sekichiku" in the Waka from the opening paragraph was the alternate
name for Kara (Tang) Nadeshiko which was brought into Japan from China.
Dianthus was called "Tokonatsu (everlasting summer)" in olden times as
it blooms for such a long time from summer to autumn. It was used as
the name of the title for the twenty sixth quire in the Tale of Ghenji
(Heian-era novel by Murasaki Shikibu in 11c), depicting the scene in
which Hikaru Ghenji happens to meet Tamakazura who is the daughter
of his ex-girl friend, Yugao.

Here is a Tanka in the Tale of Ghenji that was sung by the character,
Hikaru Genji.
"Nadeshikono Toko natsukashiki Irowo miba Motono kakinewo Hitoya tazunen"
Interpretation: If my father sees you, beautiful like dianthus, he would
probably ask where your mother lives without knowing she had already
passed away.

The father of Tamakazura who was a rival of Hikaru Genji for power,
used to have a relationship with Yugao behind his wife's back. Although
Yugao got pregnant and had a baby girl (Tamakazura), she was threatened
by the wife, and then she left and disappeared with her daughter.
Therefore, he had not known for a long time that he had a daughter or
where Yugao had gone. In the quire of Tokonatsu in Tale of Ghenji, the
scenary of "Yamato Nadeshiko"and "Kara Nadeshiko" bloom profusely in
the garden at dusk on the hot summer day is depicted. Although Tamakazura
had grown underprivileged condition, she was described as a woman with
class, beauty and solid thoughts. It seems that Dianthus was already
a symbol of Japanese women who are elegant and beautiful in the Heian
era (11c).

In the flower language of dianthus, there are feminine meanings such
as "pure love", "innocent" and "faithful". There are surprisingly some
masculine meanings, "dauntless", "bravery" and "joviality', etc too.
The flower language was created in Istanbul (Constantinople) during
the Ottoman Turkey era in the 17th century. When people confessed
his/her love to someone, they sent a flower to express their love
comparing them to the image of the flower. This custom was called
"Selam". For example, if you want to say "I love you with purity.",
you could send the flowers with flower language "pure" and "love',
and then you would be responded by flowers with a combination of the
languages of flower as well. The daffodil has the meaning of "conceit"
which is from the story of Narcissus who becomes a daffodil because
he fell in love with his own reflection in the water. Flower language
was deeply influenced by Greek mythology and was then brought into
Europe, and became very popular in the 19th century, and subsequently
spread all over the world. Ancient Japanese people recognised the
Dianthus flower as a symbol of not only prettiness but also of a
tenacious woman. People who lived in the Mediterranean World probably
found strength and passion in the Dianthus in a similar manner.

Despite its pretty and delicate appearance, Dianthus blooms dignifiedly
in the extremely hot summer rather than the gentle warm spring. What
does dianthus mean to you?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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