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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on April 26, 2019
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 101] April 26, 2019

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 101]
April 26, 2019
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Weather:
Calm down the scenery: Spring Haze

:: 1. Seasonal Weather

Here is a Tanka, Japanese traditional poem, written by KI no Toshisada
in the episode 370 in part 8 in "Kokin Wakashu (Collection of Japanese
Poems in 9c)".

"Kaeru yama Aritoha kikedo Harugasumi Tachi wakarenaba Koishikarubeshi"

Interpretation: Even though the mountain that you are heading to is
called "Kaeru (coming back)", I will surely miss you when I see you
disappearing into the spring haze.

It is still often chilly in the mornings and at night in Japan, however,
it is getting warm enough to see azalea blooming and we may feel like
snoozing with the warmth. Why we are so absent-minded during this time
of the season is probably because of the soft sunshine coming through
spring haze and hazy surroundings.

Spring haze often appears in Japanese poems in comparison to autumn fog.
Haze, mist or fog all form under same phenomenon, in which water
released from plants becoming suspended visible water droplets due to
the temperature difference. However, they are used in different seasons
and scenery. We must acknowledge that ancient Japanese people had such
a delicate and exquisite sense.

Although autumn fog in poems emhpasizes loneliness with descriptions
such as wild geese's melancholy cry, spring haze seems to be expressed
as having a calming effect.

In the program of "Hagoromo" in "Noh (classical Japanese musical drama)",
there is a scene in which three fishermen walking in spring haze after
rain in the morning to a place called Miho no Matsubara. They hear
extraordinary beautiful music and smell a pleasant scent. They look
around to see what it is and what they find is a kimono robe hooked on
a pine tree. And then a maiden appears and begs them to give it back
to her so she is able to go back to heaven. The main character fisherman
"Hakuryu" asks her to show them her dance in return. In the songs in
which she performs for those fishermen, there are lyrics being sung
about spring haze too. She flutters her robe in the sea wind, and then
goes up high and disappears to ascend into heaven in the end. The story
is showing the contrast of the earthy life through the loutish fishermen
and saintly maiden using the description of spring haze.

Mori Motonari was a prominent feudal lord in the Sengoku period in 16c.
He left a lot of "Waka (Japanese traditional poem)" and one of his waka
collections is called "Shunkashu (collection of spring haze)"
"Itsuwa areto Kaze sizukanaru haruno yono Kasumi tanabiku Ariakeno sora"
Interpretation: While I was hoping to see it, wind started blowing
quietly in the spring night. Haze is now trailing in Ariake (district
inTokyo) sky.

SANJONISHI Saneki, a court noble poet in the late Muromachi period
(16c), reviewed on this anthology and said that this poem has a movement
in stillness. Even ones own father and brothers would often turn against
you at anytime during this era, Motonari who lived through this turbulent
time might have been seeing the transient silence in spring night and
the future upheaval coming right away.

On the spring haze you see in the early morning or sunset at valley
between tall buildings, at waterside, at fields and mountains, what
comes to your mind? The haze you see in your country must have quite
different taste from Japan's haze, don't you think so?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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