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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 30, 2020
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 116] July 29, 2020

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 116]
July 29, 2020
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal flower:
Bloom under difficult conditions : Lotus Flower

:: 1. Seasonal flower

"Hachisu saku atarino kazeno kaoriaite kokorono mizuwo sumasu ike kana"
Written by Fujiwara Teika

Translation : Sweet scent of lotus flowers is brought on the breeze
from the pond.
I feel like the scent purifies deep inside my heart.

Have you ever seen lotus flowers blooming at a pond in the park ?
As well as water lilies which are similar to lotus flowers, both lotus
flowers and water lilies are called "Renge" and symbolize Buddhism.
Many of the statues of Buddha and Buddhist saints are seen placed on
lotus shaped plinths. Why lotus flowers are deeply connected with Buddhism?

Lotus flowers are native to the area around India, of which colors and
shapes varies according to the areas and species. In India, Sri-Lanka
and Vietnam, lotus flower is adopted as a national flower. We can see
that lotus flowers are valued not only by Buddhism but also by the
people as a symbol of a nation.

The environment where lotus flowers bloom is not in clear streams. Lotus
grown in clear water will make only small flowers bloom. Muddy water is
essential to grow large beautiful flowers. The worse the growing
environment is, the more beautiful and elegant the flowers come out.
Ancient people who saw this gap felt holiness in the flower and adopted
it as a symbol of Gods and Buddha.

In Buddhism, the peculiarity of lotus is referred to as "Lotus in the
mud" which symbolizes "Satori (spiritual enlightenment)" that is attained
beyond worldly desires of human being under the Buddhist teachings full
of wisdom and mercy.
Dignified beauty of lotus flowers coming out only from mud is like a
state of emancipation that was obtained only by a person who accepted
but did not steep in the worldly desires.
There must have been no other flower than lotus that represents a way
of life reaching an ideal stage.

Thus, lotus flowers beloved by people in Southern Asia are thought to
have introduced to Japan from China over 2000 years ago.
As seen in the opening verse, lotus flowers were called "Hachisu" from
a plant organ called receptacle that looks like a bee hive. (Hachi-su-
"Hachi" means bee, "su" means hive) Lotus flowers were imported before
the mid sixth century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. This is
why lotus flowers are extremely familiar to Japanese people.

Not only enjoying the beauty and the fresh fragrance of lotus flowers,
all parts of the plant: stem, bud, seed, flower and root (Renkon) which
is familiar for its crunchy texture are appreciated as food and even
used as medicine in many Asian countries.
Water-repellent lotus leaf that shape droplets on the surface and the
hollow stem of lotus are used for a rural custom, "Zoubihai" (elephant
nose cup.) Liquor or lotus tea is poured onto a leaf and people drink
it from the bottom of the stem.

While lotus became familiar to Japanese daily lives as food and medicine,
four-character Kanji compound word including Chinese character for lotus,
"Ichi-ren-taku-shou" (一蓮托生) was generated with the development of
Buddhism in Japan.
The idea of the compound word came under the belief of Pure Land Buddhism
that was originated in Japan. Originally, it was used for the meaning
that every people will be reborn on the same paradise created on a big
Lotus flower. However, with the time passage, people became to use for
a different meaning, whatever the situation should be, we are in the
same boat and will share the fate.

The flowering season of lotus, though varies according to the species,
is around June and July.
Gyouda city in Saitama prefecture and Chiba city in Chiba prefecture
each have "Ancient lotus town" where pink and white graceful lotus
flowers can be seen in early morning around this time.
The flowers bloom in these towns were all grown from the excavated seeds
in the layer of over 2000 years ago. The vitality of the seeds overlaps
with the oriental belief of transmigration of soul.

Like lotus, we hope to keep on living strongly in this world without
being steeped in worldly-mind.
In summer morning, if you find lotus flowers blooming all over the pond,
you may feel something special in your mind.

Translation by: Naoko Yamashita, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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