fall foliage forecast for 2023 (Japanese version only)

This year's fall foliage is late

Daisetsuzan National Park Sounkyo Visitor Center(Hokkaido): (Japanese version only)

when and where to see fall foliage (almost Japanese version): (English version)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

things related to the cherry blossom

At this time of year, things related to the cherry blossom are everywhere, such as foods, Japanese and western confectionery, dishes and popular songs.

haruranman(春爛漫、spring is in full swing)

a piece of haruranman and karumera(カルメラ)

a bun filled with cherry-colored bean paste including salted cherry leaves and topped with a salted cherry blossom bud.

「花見」 デザイン:戸上和子
"Hanami", designed by Kazuko Togami
Lantern and hanami-dango(花見団子:skewered dumplings for cherry-blossom viewing)
Even at night, there are many visitors at viewing spots, which are often illuminated with lanterns.

"Ohanami-chochin", designed by Kazuko Togami

Kazuko Togami, Kisetsu-wo-Tanoshimu-Washi-no-Etegami 220(Tokyo:Nihon Vogue-sha,1999, p.12,p.24.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The anniversary of Buddha's death

About half of the cherry blossoms are in bloom on these chilly winter days.

願はくは 花の下にて 春死なむ その如月の もちづきのころ(西行)
"I wish to die under a cherry tree in full bloom on about the 15th day of the second month", written by Saigyou.

Today is the 15th day of the second month according to the lunar calendar and is also the anniversary of Buddha's death. Buddhist monk Saigyou wanted to breathe his last on the same date as the anniversary of Buddha's death while watching his much-loved cherry blossoms. They were not Somei-yoshino(Yoshino Cherry) but cherry trees of wild species.
at his request, he died on the 16th day of the second month in 1190(on March 23th according to the Julian calendar).

Monday, March 29, 2010

No Japanese ancient towers have collapsed in earthquakes

Tokyo Sky Tree, is being built as a new TV transmission tower in Sumida Ward of Tokyo, has attained a height of 338 meters on the morning of March 29 and has become the tallest tower in Japan, exceeding 333-meter high Tokyo Tower. It will be 634 meters tall and go into operation next spring.
Techniques of building Japanese ancient towers are utilized for building the latest ones.

Sorin(相輪), a nine-rings is on the top of five-storey pagoda and originally means a parasol, is used for building of Tokyo Sky Tree because a recent study proved that it is useful to weaken the wind resistance.

I heard that no tower in the Japanese temples has ever fallen down because by earthquakes. The ancient earthquake-resistant design has been adopted toward the new tower's building design.

Horyu-ji Temple Five-storied Pagoda(法隆寺五重塔), which was constructed of hinoki(Japanese cypress) about 1300 years ago, is the oldest tower in Japan. It has not been damaged at all even after nine times of severe earthquake with a Japanese seismic intensity of five.
Any towers of Japanese temples in Hyogo Prefecture where The Great Hanshin earthquake occurred in 1995 did not collapse then.

Why are the towers of Japanese temples so strong against earthquakes? The flexible structure of the towers is more resistant to earthquakes. The parts of the tower were piled up without being impregnably connected, so the tower can swing like a snake and it disperses the energy of earthquake. And a central pillar of the tower damps vibrations because it is not fixed in the ground.

Its flexible structure makes it possible to build a skyscraper where large earthquakes occur.
Kiyoshi Muto(武藤清) who was an architect investigated Kan'ei-ji(寛永寺) five-storied pagoda in Ueno after the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Kanto Region in 1923, because it was not damaged at all by the earthquake. As the result of investigation, he found the advantages of the flexible structure. However, the rigid structure theory was the mainstream of those days.

After World War II, the seismologists and the experts of earthquake-proofing in the U.S.A. suggested Japanese architects to adopt the flexible structure, but no one did it but him in Japan. In 1963 he published a book "Taishin-Sekkeihou(耐震設計法:The method of quakeproof design)" that insisted on applying the Japanese original flexible structure to building a skyscraper. Under the conduct of Sei Nikai who was an engineer of Kajima Corporation (founded in 1840), the Japan's first skyscraper "Kasumigaseki Building" was completed in 1968.

However, recently an experiment on quake-resistance of a five storied pagoda denied the effect of central pillar. Originally the towers in the Buddhist temples were built for keeping Buddha's bones, so its architecture should have come to Japan from India via China and the Korean Peninsula in the sixth century.

No one knows when, and where, and how the ancient earthquake-proofing technique was established because no ancient wooden tower exists in China and the Korean Peninsula and earthquakes hardly happened in these areas. Why are the towers of Japanese temples so strong against earthquakes? The answer is still a mystery.

On the other hand, wooden towers are weak against fire. Many of wooden towers were lost by fire and wars. Although some towers were terribly damaged by fallen trees when typhoons came, they were reconstructed as before; such as the five-storied pagoda of Murō-ji located in Nara prefecture.

The five-story pagoda of Senso-ji that is popular among tourists was destroyed by fire twice in the Edo era. After the reconstruction in 1648, it was not damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but it was burned down again by World War II.
The tower rebuilt in 1973 was made of reinforced concrete. A stone that is engraved with a letter "塔 (tou, means tower)" was buried where the tower stood before the rebuilding.

As an aside, Kan'ei-ji five-storied pagoda stands on the site of Ueno Zoo now because the site of the temple was divided into some subdivisions in the Meiji Era.
At the main hall of Senso-ji, replacing roof tiles with ones made of titanium has been in the works as an earthquake countermeasure.

Sunday, March 28, 2010



In the tea ceremony, decorating rapeseed or serving confections in its motif are not allowed until March 28th, the anniversary of Sen no Rikyu's death.
The tea master Sen no Rikyu(千利休) committed ritual suicide under the order from Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a man of power, on the 28th day of the 2nd month (April 21st according to the Gregorian calendar) in 1591.

It's still not clear why Rikyu was ordered to kill himself despite he was at the top of cultural figures. Rikyu established the tea ceremony and a mutually dependent relationship was created between Rikyu as an authority on art and Hideyoshi as the power that be. Some people say the growing influence of Rikyu on feudal lords upset Hideyoshi.

"drawstring pouch in the shape of a rapeseed" designed by Masako Fujimoto
菜の花袋 デザイン/藤本正子

Shigeyoshi Inoue(ed),Shiki-wo-Ayadoru-Chirimenzaiku,(Tokyo:ONDORI-SHA,2000),p.2.

Monday, March 22, 2010

cherry blossoms

Cherry trees in Tokyo and Yokohama first bloomed today and will fully blossom in a week.
They are at their best in some areas.

世の中に 絶えて桜の なかりせば 春の心は のどけからまし(在原業平)
"If it were not for the cherry blossom, we would have a tranquil life in spring", written by Arihara no Narihira.

sakura-mochi(桜餅) :
There are two types of sakura-mochi. Both of them are wrapped with edible cherry leaves.

One is cherry-colored dumpling made of boiled and dried sticky rice called doumyouji-ko(道明寺粉). It's filled with bean paste.

The other is bean paste ball wrapped with a thin, cherry-colored and crepe-like pancake.
In the Edo Period, Yamamotoya(山本屋) near Chomei-ji temple(長命寺) brought out it as sakura-mochi.

Somei-yoshino(染井吉野:Yoshino Cherry):
Somei-yoshino is a cherry cultivar that gardeners and craftsman at Somei in Edo(now Tokyo) grew and offered.
it's not seed-propagated cultivar, so it can be propagated by seeding or grafting.
It has a major fault that its lifespan of about 60 years is lot shorter than that of wild species. a lot of somei-yoshino trees which were planted throughout Japan after World War Ⅱ have little time left to live. So attempts have been made to extend their life.
On the other hand, some people insist on replacing somei-yoshino trees with other species of cherry trees. They have concerned about undermining biodiversity by increasing only somei-yoshino trees.

kozakura(小桜:a little cherry blossom)

「桜袋」 デザイン:水口婉子
"drawstring pouch in the shape of a cherry blossom" designed by Tsuyako Mizuguchi
Tsuyako Mizuguchi(ed),Densyo-no-chirmenzaiku,(Tokyo:Graphsha inc.,1994),p.86.

a cherry blossom seen from underneath.

pouch turned upside down

A cherry blossom seen from underneath is used to resemble a butterfly.

下中菜穂,「切り紙 もんきり遊び」,株式会社宝島社,2007年,P.8
Nabo Shimonaka, Kirigami Monkiri-asobi,(Tokyo:TAKARAJIMASHA,Inc.,2007),P.8

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Equinox Day

Many areas of Japan were hit by strong winds and thunderstorms in the early morning.
Decade and a half ago, I had an injury due to scaffolding collapse a spring storm caused. So I couldn't enjoy looking at cherry blossoms that year.

The 82th Spring High School Baseball Tournament began today. It will be held at Koshien Stadium to April 1st on the sidelines of spring vacation. Thirty-two high schools from throughout Japan will compete.

Baseball was once the most popular sport in Japan, so many people used to be glued to the TV to watch high school baseball. Now, people choose from a variety of sports in doing or watching. Recently, major-league scouts come to watch preliminary games of the senior high school baseball tournament.

During the opening ceremony of the tournament, the sky was blurry because of Yellow sand(黄砂). Annually, the sand is brought to Japan by high winds from the deserts of Mongolia and China. A large amount of yellow sand reduced visibility and caused the cancellation of airline flights.

In recent years, a large amount of yellow sand often reaches Japan from March to May. Desert growth causing the spread of yellow sand and industrial pollutants contained in the sand has become major issues.
Northeast Asian countries share the problem of the yellow sand.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Visiting family graves

It's windy and warm. I visited my family grave on the site of a temple. Roads and the temple were crowded because today is the first day of three consecutive holidays. Although the temple belongs to Shingon Buddhism(真言宗), followers of other religions can also have their graves on the site of the temple. So Shinto-style graves or gravestones with inscriptions in foreign languages stand there.
Family crests are also carved on the gravestones.

The subway sarin gas incident occurred on the morning of March 20th, 1995. I remember it very well. It was a tough year for us.

Friday, March 19, 2010

neighborhood Japanese bush warblers

Waiting for the traffic light to change near a station, I heard the song of a Japanese bush warbler today. He sings very well every year, so his performance is nearly perfect for this time of year. In contrast, a Japanese bush warbler near my house is poor at singing. I guess he's not popular with girls.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Two periods of seven days with the middle day falling on the spring or autumn equinox are called Higan(彼岸), which means "the other shore" or Buddhahood. On the other side of a river, there is Buddhist paradise and we live in the world of suffering on this side of the river(此岸).
Buddhist Higan service came to be held on the days of the equinox when the sun rises from the exact east and sets in the exact west, because Buddhist paradise has been considered to be in the west.

We visit our family graves, clean them, offer flowers and burn incense and also make offerings of flowers, confections such as ohagi and incense at Buddhist altars.
During Higan, The cemetery containing my family grave is very crowded.

it's same as bota-mochi(牡丹餅). sticky rice balls coated with sweet bean paste, soybean flour and sesame.
We eat o-hagi at Higan in spring and autumn.
It's called botamochi in the season for botan(牡丹:tree peony blossoms) and called ohagi in the season for hagi(萩:Lespedeza or Japanese bush clover).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

White Day

March 14th is White Day which is a unique custom to Japan. On this day, men give women presents in return for their Valentine's chocolates. Confectionery makers began it as a way to promote sales of confections like marshmallows. Now, White Day's gifts are not limited to foods.

Here are a chocolate-coated bean paste balls named shoro(小露), but they are eaten at any time of year.

The revitalization plan of the Great Ginkgo(大銀杏) at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu are released.
Three ways to revive the tree are to set out a part of the base with live fibers, to grow ginkgo trees from cuttings and to expect to send out tillers.
We hope its revival.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Winter daphne and deer

Jinchoge(沈丁花:Daphne odora or Winter daphne) has restrained but fragrantly-scented blossoms.
Even if we can't see its blossoms in the evening, its scent make us aware that jinchoge exists there. As it blooms during the hay fever season, large amounts of air-borne pollen cause stuffy noses and prevent me from picking up the scent.

A deer shot by a crossbow was found at the Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社, Kasuga-taisha) in Nara Prefecture. The deers living around Nara Park have been regarded as the messengers of the Kasuga Grand Shrine and have been designated as a national natural treasure.

It's a blasphemous act.

They were already living there when the Kasuga Grand Shrine was found in 768.
Despite they are wild animals, they are accustomed to people and bow. However, the bad behaviors of tourists has become a problem in recent years. Many deers died of the human foods that tourists gave to the deers or of plastic food packages that tourists threw away.

We are allowed to give the deers only shika-senbei(鹿煎餅:deer biscuits) that Foundation for the Protection of Deer on Nara Park sells. A part of earnings from these biscuits sales are used to protect deers.

"Shika-otoko Awoniyoshi"(鹿男あをによし:the Deer Man) was written by Manabu Makime(万城目学) and published in 2007. It is a fantasy in Nara and is featured in a TV drama and a manga. The word "Awoniyoshi" expresses "Nara" figuratively.

A deer in Nara, a fox in Kyoto and a mouse in Osaka, who served a shaman queen in ancient Japan, cooperate to restrain a giant catfish from causing earthquakes by performing a once-in-60-year ritual while deities are away. The leading character, who is a teacher at a high school, is used as a courier by the deer.

In the TV drama version, you can see the historical sites, townscape and deers in Nara. it was interesting for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sawarabi(young bracken)

Sawarabi(早蕨:young bracken fronds curled) is frequently used in making Japanese confections as a motif representing early spring.

This is a confection named suhama(州浜) and has the shape of young bracken fronds curled.

sawarabi(早蕨) is also the 48th chapter's title of "The Tale of Genji" written by Murasaki Shikibu. Its title comes from the following waka poem of Nakanokimi(中君).

この春は誰にか見せむ 亡き人の形見に摘める 嶺の早蕨
"To whom should I show plucked young bracken as a remembrance of the dead this spring?"

Her father's teacher sent annual spring gift such as warabi(蕨:bracken) or tsukushi(土筆:horsetail) to Nakanokimi who had lost her father and sister.

We eat warabi(蕨:bracken) after removing harshness and boiling. Starch from the rhizomes is used to make Japanese confections. Being produced in small quantities, the starch is expensive. So another starch is usually sold as a substitute for it.
At Japanese-style confection stores in Kyoto, the confections containing the bracken rhizome starch go on sale for the limited period from the end of February to early March.

warabi-mochi(蕨餅), a well-known confection using the rhizome starch, is usually eaten in summer. It's like a translucent, sticky and firmer jelly. It is made by stirring water containing the starch and sugar into sticky paste on heating. After making it, I became sweaty all over and have sore muscles. So I don't feel so much like making it. Although you can make it quickly in a microwave recently,
it becomes doughier by stirring many times.

We also eat other early spring vegetables such as zenmai(薇:flowering fern) resembling a bracken, tara-no-me(たらの芽). It is the shoots of taranoki(楤木:Aralia elata or apanese Angelica-tree). We fry its nipped shooting buds in a tempura batter. It's my favorite. Its bitter taste is a sign of early spring.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Toki(The Japanese crested ibis) died

Toki(朱鷺:The Japanese crested ibis)

Eight killed and two injured crested ibises were found at the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, on the morning of March 10. One injured crested ibis also died later. They were in training for releasing into the wild. A marten is suspected of killing and injuring them.

It's a painful incident. They had never been able to fly in the sky.

Toki's scientific name is Nipponia Nippon which means Japan. The crested ibis was registered as a special Japanese natural treasure and is an internationally protected bird.
The last wild Japanese-born crested ibis died in 2003. The crested ibises now remaining at the center are a pair of Chinese crested ibis and their children.

Toki-iro(朱鷺色,鴇色:toki-color) is pale pink. Its name comes from the underside of the wings.
Feathers on the back of the wing are toki-color. When a crested ibis is flying in the sky, we can see the color.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the Great Ginkgo at Kamakura City

A guard found that the Great Ginkgo(大銀杏) at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu(鶴岡八幡宮), which is a Shinto shrine in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture, was blown down by the root early this morning.
The ginkgo had been standing there for over a thousand years and was designated as a prefectural natural monument.
It is said that the third shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate was assassinated close by the tree in 1219.
It's really too bad.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Romeo and Juliet in ancinet Japan

When a mother struck off her daughter's head, it caused a scream from the French audience. Bunraku performers including puppeteer Yoshida Minosuke considered whether they should cut its scene. However, Jean-Louis Barrault told them, "Half-hearted compromise disgraces the tradition of Bunraku, so do it the way you've always done it."

reference cited:
Yoshida Minosuke Ⅲ, Zukin-Kabutte-50nen (Tokyo:TANKOSHA PUBLISHING CO., LTD.,1991),P.157.

Kuganosuke(久我之助) and Hinadori(雛鳥), whose parents were enemies, fell in love without knowing each other's true identity like Romeo and Juliet. Suspecting their parents' conspiracy because of their love, Soga no Iruka(蘇我入鹿), a man of power, demands to hand over Hinadori as a bride and Kuganosuke as a retainer from their parents. if they refuse Iruka's request, their clans will be destroyed. So they have to turn over their children's heads unless the young couple accepts the terms.

However, Kuganosuke commits seppuku(suicide by disembowelment) because it came to him that Iruka means to kill Kuganosuke in the first place. On the other hand, Hinadori dies for love with her mother's assistance. If either commits suicide, the other would also do it. So they hide the couple's death from each other.

The cherry blossoms in full bloom. Both of two families live beside the same river, so each parent throws a branch of a blooming cherry tree into the river to let know the other about the agreement of each other's child.

Knowing their death, both parents mourn their tragic fates and enter into a settlement.
It's also the season for the Dolls' Festival in the lunar calendar. Hinadori's mother throws dolls' miniature furniture as marriage one into the river and takes Hinadori's head across the river to her lover. The marriage after the couple's death, so death can't do them part any more.

Imoseyama-onna-teikin is a bunraku play written by Chikamatsu Hanji(近松半二), Matsuda Baku(松田ばく), Sakai Zenpei(栄善平), Chikamatus Tounan(近松東南) and Miyoshi Syouraku(三好松洛). It was premiered in 1771.
The title means "textbook for women", so this story depicts an ideal woman of that time. Todat we never sympathize with their way of thinking.

brief description of the plot:
Soga no Iruka(蘇我入鹿) had physical idiosyncrasy and superhuman ability because his father gave her mother the warm blood of a white deer. Father Fujiwara no Kamatari(藤原鎌足) and son Fujiwara no Tankai(藤原淡海) defeated him, a rebel.

This play has other highlight scenes.
I introduced a part of the story.

Friday, March 5, 2010

confections for the Doll Festival

On the day of the Doll festival, the confection called Hicchigiri(引千切) was served in Imperial court. Hicchigiri means "tear off". These are ripped rice-flour dumplings mixed with mugwort.

seioubo is another name for peach. Although peach fruit is harvested in early summer, this confection is associated with the festival in peach blossom season.
Powdered oblate represents peach skin.

fu-kuume(福梅:Japanese apricot)
hana-momo(花桃:peach blossom)

a confection named Hanaguruma(花車)
There is another confection with the same name.

In ancient times hanaguruma (花車) was the same as goshoguruma (御所車:ox-drawn carriage). Hanakuruma-cho(花車町) in Kyoto is a town name named after the emperor's carriage.
Now hanaguruma means an ox-drawn cart laden with flowers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hina dolls

These are my grandmother's Hina dolls made more than 100 years ago in Kyoto. She lived in another area, where Hina dolls were not being made. Their heads and accessories such as a fan are removable and I store them in a empress tree box separately. They have a lot of wear.

Unlike newer dolls, both of them are dyeing their teeth black.
Ohaguro (お歯黒) is a custom of dyeing one's teeth black. In Japan, married women did it and only aristocratic men of high position were permitted to do it until the Meiji era.
It consists of tannic acid and ferrous acetate, so it also helped to prevent cavities and slow the progression of them. Now many dentists use the topical fluoride that were developed through it.

Miniature lacquered chests of drawers. They were also made in Kyoto. One of them has two long loops on either side. Running a stick through two loops, two men can carry the chest on their shoulders. Newer chests doesn't have them.

Here are rabbit Hina dolls designed by Kyoko Tatewaki. I made them quite a long while ago.

Kyoko Tatewaki, "Usagi-no-Ohinasama" in Oshare-Koubou(Tokyo:Japan Broadcast Publishing Co.,Ltd.)
帯刀 教祜,"うさぎのおひなさま", おしゃれ工房(東京:日本出版放送協会)

Recently, many tourist attractions feature hanging ornaments(つるし飾り) which have crepe small articles associated with the Doll Festival.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hinamatsuri(the Doll Festival)

On March 3rd, Hina-matsuri(the Doll Festival) for girls is celebrated in Japan.
In the Heian Period over 1,000 years ago, people used to float dolls down the river to wash away their impurities after transferring their impurities to the dolls. It is said that the origin of Hinamatsuri is this custom introduced from China.
So girls have their own Hina dolls. Parents (or grandparents) buy Hina dolls for their daughter when she is born.

Hina dolls meant a couple of dolls until the late Edo period.People came to display attendants, miniature furniture and so forth, with them on a tiered stand.

1.On the top shelf are emperor and empress.
In ancient Japan, the person on the left came before one on the right, so the male doll was on the left (the right from the viewer's perspective) of the female doll.
after the Emperror stood on the right modeled after Western-style in the Taisyo era, the female doll came to be set on the left of the male doll in many areas.

2.On the second shelf are sannin-kanjo(三人官女:three female attendants).
They pour out shirozake(white sake) for the coule.

3.On the third shelf are gonin-bayashi(五人囃子:five musicians) consisting of three percussionists, a flute player and a singer.

4.On the fouth shelf are two ministers called sa-daijin(左大臣:Minister of the Left) and u-daijin(右大臣:Minister of the Right). sa-daijin comes before u-daijin. As an aside, Sugawara Michizane(菅原道真) was a u-daijin and Fujiwara no Tokihira(藤原時平) was a sa-daijin.

5.On the fifth shelf are attendants holding shoes, a shrouded parasol and hat(in Kyoto, holding cleaning things).
Ukon-no-tachibana (右近の橘: tachibana tree on the right) on the far right and Sakon-no-sakura (左近の桜:a cherry tree on the left) on the far left are placed. They were planted in front of the Shishinden (紫宸殿, Hall for State Ceremonies) of The Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Some family crests or patterns are designed in the motif of tachibana(scientific name:Citrus tachibana).
There are hishimochi(菱餅:diamond-shaped ricecakes) on the diamond-shaped stands, coverd bowls on the ozen(お膳:a small dining table), goshoguruma (御所車:an ox-drawn coach).

the Doll Festival is also called "Momo-no-sekku",which means the festival in peach blossom season. However, peach trees have yet to bloom on March 3rd in the solar calendar.

Shirozake(白酒:white sake made from fermented rice, a kind of liqueur) that three female attendants pour out was originated by Toshimaya(founded in 1596) for the Doll Festival. Even now, shirozake is available at Toshimaya.

as far as I know, hina-arare(雛あられ)is puffed and sugarcoated rice. In the Kansai region, it is bite-sized rice crackers flavored with sugar or soy sauce.

Flowers for the Doll Festival are sold in sets with some branches of blooming peach tree and nanohana(菜の花:rapeseed). They are higher than usual. They could cost about ¥700. Rapeseed is in season.

A kind of rapeseed is edible. It has slightly bitter taste similar to other some spring vegetables.

I associate chirashizushi(ちらしずし) and hamaguri(蛤:clam) with Doll Festival dishes.

This chirashizushi is made by
1. slicing and seasoning shiitake mushroom, carrot, bamboo shoot with soup, sugar and soy sauce on heating,
2. frying an egg like crepe and slicing the fried thin layer of egg like string,
3. mixing rice with sugar, vinegar and salt,
4. mixing (1) with (3),
5. topping (2), conger eel, green peas and pickled ginger.
Various ingredients such as boiled shrimp, boiled and sliced field peas, sweet pickled lotus root are topped on that rice.

A salt-based soup containing unshelled clams is also served with it.

Kai-awase(貝合わせ) is a play like concentration(Pelmanism).
The inside of a clam shell is painted and gilded.
The same picture is painted on paired shells.

Kai-oke(貝桶)is a container to store a set of clam shells for kai-awase.

kami-fusen(紙風船:paper balloon) puffs up by blowing into the hole.

fusen-bukuro(風船袋:drawstring bag in the shape of paper balloon)
ふうせん袋 デザイン:湊啓子
"drawstring bag in the shape of paper balloon" designed by Keiko Minato
Junko Sasaki(ed), Bag-BAG-Bag (Tokyo:Patchwork Tsushin Co., Ltd.,1996),P.6.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

tsunami and tsubaki

The Japan Meteorological Agency apologized for overestimating the risk for tsunami. However, I guess few people make a complaint about the alarm so that many people still remember the tsunami of 50 years ago. Although no one suffered damage, the tsunamis caused extensive damage to oyster farmers.

Tsubaki(椿:The Japanese Camellia or Camellia japonica) has long been loved from ancient times in Japan. It was highly prized in tea ceremony, so that variety of camellias were developed. sazanka(山茶花) looks like camellia in appearance. camellia blossoms are relatively larger than sazanka and the whole of a blossom falls off a tree. Sazanka blossoms flowered earlier than most kinds of tsubaki.

Tsubaki-bukuro(椿袋)   デザイン:山口信子
"pouch in the shape of camellia" designed by Nobuko Yamaguchi

Nobuko Yamaguchi, Kisetsu-wo-Kazaru-chirimenzaiku (Tokyo:SEKAI BUNKA PUBLISHING INC., 2000),P.32.

The knot is called agemaki-musubi(総角結び:True Lovers Knot). Agemaki(総角) is one of the hair styles for children in ancient times. It's also a charm against evil.
Agemaki is also the 47th chapter's title of "The Tale of Genji" written by Murasaki Shikibu. Its title comes from the following waka poem that the hero Kaoru(薫) sent to a woman named Oikimi(大君).

あげまきに 長き契りをむすびこめ おなじところに よりもあはなむ
"Like a agemaki-musubi, I want to be with you all the time."

However, he was not able to tie the knot with her. She turned down his proposal and died of anxiety.


Kougei-gashi,Tsubaki(工芸菓子・椿) :
This confection is for ornamental use. All parts including blossoms, branches, leaves and a vase are made of dough mixed with sugar and powdered rice. Wires are also used for branches.
Although it's for beginners, I struggled with making this.

Monday, March 1, 2010



An annual ritual commonly known as Omizutori is held at Nigatsudo hall of Nara's Todaiji temple from March 1st through the 14th. Its preparation started on February 20th.

The ritual continues a tradition that started in 752. So this year marks the 1,259th anniversary. Monks started the ritual to repent of their sins. Now they pray for world peace and prosperity during it.

On the evening of the 1st, they dedicate rice cakes, 400 camellias and 50 nanten(nandina) made of Japanese paper to the 11-faced form of Kannon Bodhisattva housed at the hall.

From about 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., they run along the hall's balcony, carrying huge burning torches every day from March 1st to 14th. On March 12th, monks use larger torches. People believe exposure to the sparks brings good fortune.

Monks draw water from the special sacred well underneath the hall around 2 a.m. on the 13th. The water is offered to the Kannon.

Rouben-sugi-no-Yurai(良弁杉由来:the origin of the cedar named Rouben)Originally it was one of a omnibus bunraku play and premiered in 1887.
Legend has it that Rouben (良弁、朗弁) (689–773), who was clerical founder of the Tōdai-ji temple in Nara of Japan, was snatched by an eagle and dropped off in front of Nigatsu-do hall when he was a baby and reunited with his mother after becoming a high priest 30 years later.
This story is based on its legend. His mother was so obsessed with her son that she lost her mind. After returning to her senses, she goes to see him on hearing a rumor. when they meet again, Rouben realize that he has been afflicting her despite he has been praised as a person of virtue.

crepe camellia modeled after above-mentioned paper camellia. There is also a confection resembling it.

お水取り デザイン:弓岡勝美
"Omizutori" designed by Katsumi Yumioka.
Katsumi Yumioka, Colors of Japanese Spirits (Tokyo:NIHON VOGUE-SHA.Co,Ltd.,2005),P.8.