JTCO strives for inheritance, creation and development of Japanese traditional culture.

JTCOJapanese Traditional Culture Promotion&Development Organization
日本語 | English
Newsletter Back Number

Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on March 31, 2020
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 112] March 31, 2020

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 112]
March 31, 2020
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal plant:
Light a fire to your heart? : Yomogi (Japanese mugwort)

:: 1. Seasonal plant

"Kyoumomata kakuya ibukino sashimogusa sashimo warenomi moeya wataramu"
(Written by Izumi Shikibu in "Shinkokinwakashu"
- New collection of ancient and modern Japanese poetry)
(Translation : Every single day, I cannot stop my flaming passions to
you, just like Yomogi (Japanese mugwort) growing in Mt.Ibuki.)

Third of March is the Doll Festival, which is the season we start feeling
the signs of spring. How do Japanese families celebrate with their
daughters in this year? It may be a little bit early in this season
in the new calendar, but Yomogi, which is used for Hishi-mochi (rhombus-
shaped rice cake), starts sprouting soon. Because of the fresh flavor,
Yomogi is indispensable ingredient for Japanese cuisine, such as Japanese
sweets, Ohitashi (boiled vegetables) and Tempura.

Yomogi is a perennial plant of "Asteraceae"(a family of flowering plants
comprising the asters, daisies, sunflowers etc.) native to Northern Asia.
Since it is a propagating plant, it became naturalized plant in many
countries. It contains lots of nutrients, such as protein, Vitamin A,
B1, B2, C and mineral, and also the essential oil extracted from the
plant such as "cineol", which is the base of the flavor. This is the
reason why Yomogi is widely used in food as well as for medical purposes
all over the world. In Japan, it has been believed that its fragrance
and vital power keep people away from evil spirit and ensure long lives.

In ancient times, "Hahakogusa (cottonweed)" (One of seven herbs of
Japanese spring, also known as "Gogyo"), was used to make Kusamochi
(Green rice cake). In Edo period, the ingredient of Kusamochi had been
changed to Yomogi due to the belief that Yomogi drives evil spirit away,
and also it is beneficial on blood formation. Hishimochi (Rhombus-shaped
rice cake), as the decoration in Doll Festival, was made with three-layer
in Edo period (17-19C). In some other areas, it could be two-layer,
five-layer or even seven-layer.

The pink rice cake representing plum blossoms, is tinted with gardenia
seeds with detoxification effect. Pink color is associated with praying
for good health. For white rice cake representing remaining snow, water
caltrop which is effective herb for reducing blood pressure, is used.
White color is associated with purification. And for green rice cake
that symbolises sprout, Yomogi, which helps blood formation, is used.
Praying for good health, longevity and good luck are associated.
Generally, the order of color from the bottom would be green, white
and pink, which means "Sprout under the snow and bloom over the snow".

The opening poem written by Izumi-shikibu, known for her numbers of
love affairs, is a poem about she likened her love to yomogi. As seen
in the original Chinese character for Yomogi "善燃義",which means "burn
well", since the leaves contain wax, it is said Yomogi burns slowly for
a long time once being lit a fire. Yomogi is also called "Mogusa" (燃草
burning grass), which is known as moxa being used for moxibustion. Moxa
is very expensive because it needs work to gather the fine hairs (dense
and white cotton wool hair) underside of Yomogi leaves. Higher quality
the Moxa is, easier to be lit a fire, the stable fire could warm body
slowly with the soft thermal power.

"Mt.Ibuki" mentioned in the poem of Izumi-shikibu is not the one locates
in present Shiga-prefecture. It is thought to be the one in Shimotsuke
province (present Tochigi prefecture) which was known for fine quality
moxa production district.
And the pillow word for "Sashimo-gusa (the old name of Japanese mugwort)",
"Shimejigahara" or "Shimetsunohara" is thought to be the wildland existed
in Shimotsuke province.

Shimotsukeya Shimetsunoharano sashimogusa onoga omoini miwo yakuramu"
(Author unknown, "Ancient and Modern Waka Collection")

(Translation: Like Yomogi of Shimetsunohara in Shimotsuke province, I
found myself burning with love.)

Murasaki-shikibu, who served the emperor as a court lady as well as
Izumi-shikibu did, criticized her as "She in an excellent writer, but
her behavior is not good." Izumi-shikibu had numbers of love affairs
and even had a passionate romance with the prince irrespective of her
social position. The title of the fifteenth chapter of "Genji-monogatari",
"Yomogiu" means a ruined wild field thickly covered with Yomogi. The
image of Yomogi is totally different from the one in the previous poems
introduced in this article."Yomogiu" is the episode of the ugly lady
"Suetsumuhana", who was abandoned by everybody around her. However, the
story ends up in happy ending, she finally won the affection of Genji
when her purity touched his heart. As these examples show, Yomogi may
be quite suitable expression that represents passionate love as well
as earnest wish for love.

If you find Yomogi sprouts by the side of a road upon the arrival of
spring, how about trying recipe using Yomogi? Don't forget to wish for
good health and good luck! You may feel something new and something
exciting growing in your heart.

Translation by: Naoko Yamashita, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

Copyright by Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion and
Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

To subscribe/unsubscribe to our Newsletter, or to change your
registered email address, please visit:

JTCO Newsletter "Delivery of Seasonal Tradition"Experience Japan with you tour guide!Find us@Facebook