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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Morning Glory and Tanabata

August 8th was the first day of fall(立秋) according to the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendar.

Temperatures have been above 35 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country. Many people have been rushed to hospitals with heat stroke. It's boiling hot and humid. I can't sleep well.

The rate of daily electricity use reached 97 percent in the areas supplied with electricity by Tohoku Electric Power Company on August 5th. Because 28 hydroelectric power plants within the jurisdiction of the company stopped due to last month's heavy rain. Tokyo Electric Power Company and Hokkaido Electric Power Company accommodate the company with electricity.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Victims Memorial Peace Prayer Ceremony was held on August 9th. The mayor of Nagasaki indicated his intention to aim to abandon nuclear power generation for the first time.

August 6th corresponds to the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar this year.
Morning glory is "asagao" in Japanese and asagao(朝顔) means "morning beauty."

Morning glory is also known as Kengyuka(牽牛花). Kengyu(牽牛) literally means towing a cow. It also means the Cowherd (Altair) in the Tanabata legend. Some theories explains how it came to be its name.

One theory holds that morning glory seeds were highly prized as Chinese herbal medicines, so they are equal to a cow in value. Another theory is morning glories bloom around Tanabata, the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar.

Morning glories are blooming here and there. The Iriya Morning Glory Fair in July was cancelled due to the Great East Japan Earthquake this year.

There is a famous episode about morning glory.
Sen no Rikyu(千利休) who was a master of the tea ceremony was growing morning glories that were rare in those days. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the power of the day, asked Rikyu to view them after having heard rumors of them. Rikyu invited Hideyoshi for a tea ceremony at his residence.

However, there was no morning glory in Rikyu's garden. When entering the tea-ceremony room, Hideyoshi saw just one morning glory being placed in a vase in an alcove. Only one morning glory drove its beauty home to Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi praised Rikyu.

荒海や佐渡によこたふ天の河  松尾芭蕉
A-ra-u-mi-ya Sa-do-ni-yo-ko-ta-u A-ma-no-ga-wa

"Turbulent the sea—across to Sado stretches the Milky Way," written by Matsuo Basho and translated by Donald Lawrence Keene.

The dark and furious sea is before his eyes. He finds the silhouette of Sado Island. When he looks up at the night sky, the Milky Way seems to stretch to Sado Island.

He visited Naoetsu in Niigata and composed this poem at a haiku gathering on the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar(August 21st in the Gregorian calendar) in 1689. However, he couldn't see the Milky Way there because of rainy weather. The sea is quiet in that season. The Milky Way doesn't lie on Sado Island.

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