NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/11/13


切妻造 Kirizuma-zukuri The Kirizuma-zukuri Style

Jp En

The Kirizuma-zukuri style is one of Japanese traditional architectural styles, especially said of the styles of roofs. Japanese roofs are classified into any one of the three representative styles; Kirizuma (gable roof), Yosemune (hip roof) and Irimoya (hip-and-gable roof).

The ends of buildings with gable roofs have a triangular space (gable) made by the incline of the two sides of the roof. Seen from the gable side, the wall looks as if it was cut by the roof; hereby it is called Kirizuma, which literally means “a cut gable.”

The Kirizuma-zukuri style was a basic architectural style in ancient Japan. The gable roof was prized most highly during the Kofun period (3rd-6th centuries), when it was the symbol of the residences of powerful rulers. However, in the Nara period (710-794), when the Yosemune-zukuri style (with hip roof) was introduced from China, it was considered more sophisticated because extension of the roof was apparently recognized.

Later on, the Irimoya-zukuri style (with hip-and-gable roof) became most favored in the prestigious buildings such as palaces, noblemen’s residences and temples due to its combined features; the symbolic character of the Kirizuma style and the expansivity of the Yosemune style.
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2007/10/19


おはじき遊び Ohajiki-asobi Ohajiki (Flat Marbles) Game

Jp En

Ohajiki is a traditional game enjoyed by Japanese children, especially girls. Its name comes from the flicking (“hajiku” in Japanese) of fingers that is done to ohajiki (flat glass marbles) with a diameter of about 12 mm.

The game dates back to the Nara period (710-794), when it was introduced from China. In those days pebbles were used to play, and the game was called “Ishi-hajiki (stone flicking).” It was mainly enjoyed among the nobility at the Imperial court. It was in the Edo period (1603-1868) when the game began to be played by girls. In the late Meiji period (1868-1912), glass marbles appeared.

To play the game, players scatter the ohajiki on a flat surface and then take turns hitting one piece against another with the flick of a finger. If a player is successful, she can get the other player’s ohajiki. The player with the most pieces wins. Ohajiki marbles are cute-looking stuff and the game is enjoyable even for adults.
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2007/10/15


【仁】 Nin,Jin Humaneness, Benevolence

Jp En

A representative ethical notion in East Asian thought widely spread in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan Confucius’ teaching and Confucianism [the teaching of the person Confucius and what people have made out of it later are different things]. In Kanji science, however, the process before this character became a completely abstract notion is the main focus of interest. Actually, at the time of Confucius correct knowledge about the origin of Chinese characters had already been lost. In this sense, it was a character that could easily be manipulated or exploited. One can often hear the popular belief that it is the combination of the person-classifier at the left side and the number two at the right side. There also is the view that it was developed as a generalization of the notion ‘between two human beings,’ becoming one of the five basic tenets of Confucianism 仁 ‘Nin, Jin: humaneness,’ 儀 ‘Gi: rightness,’ 礼(禮) ‘Rei: propriety,’ 智 ‘Chi: wisdom,’ and 信 ‘Shin: trustworthiness.’ Certainly, the classifier is the person-classifier; here, however, the focus is on the interpretation of the right part.
Actually, from the standpoint of correct Kanji science, apart from the original number characters there is not even one case among Kanji with an element standing for an abstract number. It may look like this in the form of the present Common Use Kanji, which differs from the old character forms, but the idea that something abstract is incorporated as an element in Kanji always is characteristic for vulgar belief.
The part 五 appearing in 悟, for example, has no relation to the number 五 ‘five,’ but shows a double wooden lid firmly closing a ‘norito,’ i.e. ritual prayer receptacle. As a character that really shows two human beings there is the character 比 and others.
Basically, the elements appearing in Kanji are human beings and things. As they are things extant in ancient society, the person-classifier shows the form of a person who is about to sit down and the left part is the cushion at the sitting place. As this is the Orient, it is not a chair, but a cushion or mat. Thus a rather different way from there to the abstract ethical notion of humaneness becomes evident. In other words, it is the heart or mental attitude of offering a seating cushion to somebody. It means the mental attitude of consideration and feeling of hospitality towards guests or visitors. Originally, it is a notion for expressing such a warm feeling or attitude.
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2007/9/28


叡福寺 Eifukuji Eifukuji Temple

Jp En

Eifukuji Temple is known as the site of the kofun (tomb) of Prince Shotoku. It is one of the New Saigoku Pilgrimage of 33 Temples, which was newly selected based on Prince Shotoku’s idea of “harmony” as a priority over all other virtues. In 724, after the death of the prince, the emperor Shomu ordered to build a temple to repose the soul of Prince Shotoku. The temple was burned down by the attack of Nobunaga Oda during the Warring States period, but it was rebuilt by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. If you go up the stone steps, you will see the South Gate. Walk through the gate, and then you will see the houtou (a treasure pagoda), the main hall, and the Shoryo-den (a memorial hall of Prince Shotoku) on your left. In the back of the precinct is the Prince Shotoku’s tomb. Shoryo-den is a designated Important Cultural Property. The principal image worshipped inside is said to be Prince Shotoku’s life-size statue when he was 16. It is said to have been placed in the ancient Imperial Palace in Kyoto but donated to this temple by the emperor Gotoba in 1187. Around the temple there are a lot of places associated with Prince Shotoku. You will be impressed by the length of the history all through which people have paid respect for the Prince.
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2007/8/23


尾張万歳 Owari-manzai Owari Manzai

Jp En

Owari Manzai, or also called Chita Manzai, is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Aichi Prefecture. It was nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1996.

It is said that Owari Manzai originates in the comical play contrived by Muju Kokushi, the chief priest of Choboji Temple in present Nagoya City, during the Kamakura period (1192-1333) to make the teaching of the Lotus Sutra understandable to villagers. This comical play came to be called “Hokkekyo Manzai (the Lotus Sutra Manzai).”

Owari manzaists organized touring troupes and had stage performances mainly in the entrance hall of houses in nearby provinces such as Ise, Kii, Totomi, and Kiso, affecting Manzai performances in those areas. In the Taisho period (1912-1926), it became so popular that professional manzai troupes were organized and Owari Manzai was performed at theaters.

Manzai goes basically by Tayu who delivers congratulatory addresses with a Japanese folding fan, and Saizo who follows tapping the tsuzumi (hand drum), while typical Sankyoku Manzai is performed by three players with three musical instruments, tsuzumi, shamisen, and kokyu. It has been passed down as a flamboyant theatrical performance by Owari Manzai Preservation Group.
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2007/8/9


仙台すずめ踊り Sendai-suzume-odori Sendai Sparrow Dance Festival

Jp En

Sendai Sparrow Dance is an annual festival that takes place at Miyajyouno-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at the end of July.
It is said to originate with a dance that was improvised by stonecutters from Sakai, Oosaka, in front of Date Masamune at a banquet after a formal celebration of the newly-built Sendai Castle in a new location.
With its upbeat tempo, energetic movements and hopping dance which resembles sparrows pecking their food, and also because the family crest of Date is “bamboo and sparrow”, the dance came to be called “sparrow dance”.
Before the Second World War, the dance was preserved and practiced by descendants of stonecutters in Ishikiri Town, but recently it has become more widely popular among people in general and many dance groups have sprung up.
Presently, groups compete against each other with their techniques and beauty by inventing an original choreography which is developed from the basic dance pattern called “Hanekko Odori” which is to move a fan across the front of the body while jumping left and right.
Sendai Sparrow Dance brings a poetic charm to the season of summer and is much loved by local people.
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2007/7/23


じゃんがら念仏踊り Jangara-nenbutsu-odori Jangara Nenbutsu-odori (Buddhist invocation dance)

Jp En

Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a traditional performing art, which has been handed down in Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref. It is performed during the Kyu Bon period in August (Bon of the lunar calendar). The dance is designated as a city’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. It is said that the dance originated in Yuten Shonin’s idea during the Edo period. Yuten Shonin (1637-1718), who was born in Iwaki Yotsukura and became a great Buddhist priest, made efforts to find an easy way to teach Buddhist invocation to unbelieving people of this area and guided them into reciting Namu Amida Butsu to the tune of a song. Young men in yukata (informal summer kimonos) with tucked-up sleeves dance and parade through the city chanting a Buddhist invocation to the unique rhythms of Japanese bells and drums. They visit each of the families who go through Niibon (the first Bon following the death of a family member) and pray for the dead person’s soul and console the bereaved. There are about 100 groups of such young men in the city and participate in the activities rooted in the local community. The dance movements are basically the same, but somewhat different in details. Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a reminder of the summer in Iwaki.
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2007/7/19


デカンショ祭 Dekansho-matsuri Dekansho Festival

Jp En

Dekansho Festival is a Bon dance festival held in the middle of August in Sasayama City, Hyogo Pref. With the hope of preserving and passing down various local Dekansho-bushi songs in the Tanba Sasayama area, the festival was first held in 1952 on the riverbed of the Sasayama River. Dekansho-bushi song, to which Dekansho Dance is danced, is said to have originated in “Mitsu-bushi,” which was sung around the end of the Edo period by the people from Sasayama, thinking of their hometown. In the later periods, it was sung with various lyrics and spread all over the country. At the present time, the festival is held in the field of the Sannomaru (the third castle) ruin, where people dance in multiple circles around a large yagura tower at the center. The highlight of the festival is the vigorous “Yagura So-Odori,” in which even the people coming from outside the prefecture join the circle dancing to the ohayashi music and the refrain of “Yoi-Yoi-De-Kansho!” If you want to have one more summertime memory, why don’t you join it?
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