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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on October 31, 2018
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 95] October 31, 2018

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 95]
October 31, 2018
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Food:
Gratitude for autumn harvest: Rice

:: 1. Seasonal Food

Here is a Haiku written by Ryuta Iida who was a Haiku poet living in
20th century.
"Shinmaitoyu Yorokobino Kasukanari"
Interpretation: After reaping, I can gratefully enjoy my rice this year
again. The subtle scent of freshly cooked rice hangs in the air and
it is incredibly joyful to smell it. It is truly worth working hard."

Sticky short grain rice is commonly consumed in Japan. Different to the
long grain rice, it has a unique elasticity and stickiness. It is
usually cooked in a rice cooker, not boiled but steamed with the proper
quantity of water and it makes the perfect softness. When you fill newly
polished rice in a rice bowl, the individual grains stand up and shine.
You can fully enjoy the texture of stickiness and the sweetness which
grows with every chew. The shipment time for rice is between September
and October. Eating new rice is a supreme luxury for Japanese people
which can be gained only during this season.

Although there are four highly probable routes, how rice farming was
introduced into Japan is still unknown. However, It is stated that
following its introduction to Japan, rice cultivation started before
the Middle Jomon period (5,500 - 4,500 years ago), with the evidence
of unhulled rice found in a stratum formed 6,000 years ago in a midden
in Okayama prefecture in the Chugoku region.

The current style rice cultivation in a paddy field started in the late
Jomon period 2,500 years ago and the oldest site is found in Fukuoka
prefecture in Kyushu island (the southwest side of Japan). With its
dissemination passing down from Kyushu island to Kansai region (the
southern-central region) and then Tohoku region (the northeastern area
under Hokkaido), hunter-gatherer society gradually changed to an agrarian
society of rice cultivation. Because it was able to give them regular
crop, their food supply became stable. It is said that it made the
decreased population in the late Jomon period (about 3,300 - 2,800)
which was around 160 thousand increase to between 500 thousand to 1
million in the Yayoi period (about 1000 B.C. to 300 A.D.).

The advent of rice farming influenced people, and their worship and
festivals developed to aim at appreciating receiving benefit from nature
and also preventing natural disasters. In the Jomon period, festivals
were held to pray for fertility for the entire natural world, but in
the Yayoi period, they valued their agricultural rites more in their
faith. And also, the scale got bigger from individual villages to the
whole nation and the element of the festivals developed stronger
implications for their unity. Wooden crafts shaped like a bird and a
boat were found in a remains of a rice field used at the Yayoi period
to the Kofun period (300-538AD). It is thought that people believed
the crafts carried rice splits.

Agricultural ceremonies in which the god of the rice field was worshipped
were carried out throughout the four seasons. It developed in various
ways in many places all over Japan and still continues today. The god
for rice is regarded as the same god as the god for mountain and has
been worshipped as a god to bring a rich harvest since ancient times.
During the process of rice farming throughout the four seasons, they
have held various festivals, mainly includes the pre-celebration festival
at the beginning of the year , "Minakuchi" festival at the starting
period of the farming, rice-planting festival, a magico - religious
event to prevent disasters and plague and harvest festival.

Hanami (cherry blossom flower viewing) which Japanese look forward to
every spring is apparently one of the religious practices for the god
of the rice field. It was believed that when spring came, the god of
the mountain visited the villages, seated on top of a cherry blossom
tree and transformed into the god of the rice field. Its blossoming was
regarded as a sign of god's arrival. And more, from season to season
many Shinto rituals are held at every point of progress during rice
cultivation and it has still been inherited as a custom and festivals
today. They are still now taken into Japanese people's lives.

Rice is written in kanji character as "米" and if you break it down,
it becomes "八十八 (eighty eight)". As the kanji "米" represents that
rice would be completed after 88 processes of labour such as seeding,
maintaining water, planting, weeding, repelling birds and animals, pest
control, harvesting, shipment, etc… Rice won't grow without all these
tasks and vast amount of hours. While Japanese people cultivate rice,
they have listened to the nature, appreciated it, worked with a lot
of patience for a long time. The mind, way of thinking and behaviour
of Japanese people must have been formed along side with it. Breed has
been improved all over Japan every year and people enjoy various kinds
of rice today. Despite that, rice consumption has decreased every year
due to the popularity of bread which is convenient to eat.

There are still a lot of people who think they need to eat rice for
breakfast to energize them. And also in the traditional Japanese style
hotels, freshly cooked rice with a shiny white colour is served alongside
colourful side dishes that go well with the rice. Many Japanese are
thankful that they were born in Japan when they eat delicious rice.
Rice is definitely indispensable for their diet after many years with
it. Have you ever had Japanese rice?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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