In ancient China, corners of rooms were thought of as places where evil spirits can hide easily. Underground grave chambers of nobility are represented by the form 亜 (亞) indicating the four reeled off corners.
Ancient clan ‘insignia’ also had the standard form of 亞 with several inscriptions inside. As a rare example, among the inscriptions there also is an equivalent of the element 莫 (meaning ‘dark’). As in the later Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) style, however, the form 亞 which means ‘grave’ did not remain, here also the lineage of the common explanation as ‘natural’ (not underground) grave as is usual also in traditional grave geomancy will be introduced in the following.
墓 is usually categorized as picto-phonetic character, here it is regarded as a pictograph in the first line. The character combines the upper part 艸 ‘grass’ and 日 ‘sun’ with the lower part, 艸 ‘grass’ and 土 ‘soil,’ showing a state of freshly green sprouting grass. With its sunshine, the bright shining sun fills the grassy plain with vivid life. This shows the ideal of the corpse returning to the soil and to nature. According to Yin-Yang thought, there has to be a balance of the sun (Yang) and the earth or soil (Yin).
Full moon is a lunar phase, in which the hemisphere of the moon facing the earth is fully illuminated by the sun and appears round. A full moon occurs when the geocentric apparent longitudes of the sun and the moon differ by 180 degrees. As the full moon corresponds to an age of about 14.8 days of the synodic month, a night with a full moon is called “Jugoya (the 15th night)” in Japanese.
The appearance of the illuminated portion of the moon as seen by an observer on the earth is called luner phases. The phases designate both the degree to which the moon is illuminated and the geometric appearance of the illuminated part. The moon appears as a new moon when the sun and the moon are on the same sides of the earth, while as a full moon when they are on the opposite side. Between the new moon and the full moon, it appears as the first quarter moon and the last quarter moon, which mean we can see half of the illuminated part. If the moon happens to align exactly with the earth and sun, then we get a lunar eclipse.
As a lunar month is about 29.531 days long, the full moon falls on around the 15th day of the lunar month in the calendars that start the month on the new moon such as Chinese Calendar. However, as there is a margin of error, a full moon does not always occur on the 15th day.
The moon on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the lunar calendar (usually around mid- or late-September in the Gregorian calendar), when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, is called “Chushu-no-meigetsu (the fine moon in the mid-autumn)” and people hold the Moon Festival. The full moon seems to symbolize the mysterious beauty and power of the moon.
Ganbou Rock is a 78-meter-high rock located near the town of Engaru in Noboribetsu county, Hokkaido and is designated as one of Hokkaido’s 100 Natural Spots.
There is an observation deck at the top of the rock, which is a 15-minute walk up.
This rock is the symbol of Engaru and is popularly known as ‘the rock that is the first place to receive the morning sun in this town’ or ‘the rock that is settled warmly in the evening sun’.
The name ‘Ganbou’ is derived from the Ainu word ‘Ingarushi’ (which means ‘the place with a fine view’). It is also known as an historic battlefield of the Ainu people. The view from the observation deck gives a marvelous 360-degree panoramic view.
Sun’s Hill Engaru Park, much loved by the town people, marks the starting point of the hike to the top.
Aoso Shrine in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is the headquarters of Aoso shrines all over the country. It was founded in 852 by Hozumi Yasumasa, the ancestor of the current shrine priest’s family, who came to this area from Kyoto. He enshrined Amaterasu Omikami (the sun goddess), Ame no Minakanushi no Kami (the god of the universe), and Tsukuyomi no Kami (the god of the moon) in the cave where holy water sprang out; hereby the shrine is famous as the place where the sun, the stars and the moon are enshrined together.
Yasumasa taught the villagers how to grow hemp plants. It is said that the shrine name “Aoso,” which literally means Green Hemp, was derived from this episode. The shrine has been known for its divine power to cure and prevent palsy, and it is said that if you visit this shrine three times, you will never be stricken with palsy for the rest of your life.
As the Hozumi clan was involved in maritime industry, the shrine is also worshipped as the deity of navigation safety. The famous fine water “Osuzu” springs out in the precinct. A lot of visitors come to take a drink of this holy water.
Nen-neko Matsuri is a festival held at Konoha Shrine in Kushimoto Town, Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture, on the first Sunday in December. The festival is designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset by Wakayama Prefecture.
Konoha Shrine is known to enshrine the deity that protects infants and the festival is based on historical anecdotes of Empress Jinguu who loved and nurtured her son. The religious ritual begins at 6 AM and visitors pray at dawn. It is followed by ceremonies related to nurturing infants and the festival ends with planting rice seeds to pray for a good harvest.
The whole ceremony unfolds at an unhurried pace. It begins with a ritual of bowing towards the sun at the sacred area which is placed on top of a stone alter and enclosed with straw festoon, which invokes an ancient festival.
Following the festival there is a demonstration of shishi-mai (a legendary lion-like creature performs a dance) which is accompanied by a fantastic acrobatic routine by children who dress as Tengu, a long-nosed goblin. The shishi-mai is very unique to the region and attracts a large audience who applaud the enchanting performance and even throw loose change.
Nen-neko Matsuri is a solemn and tranquil religious ritual.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Geshi (夏至) literally meannig “to reach summer” is the 10th solar term. It usually begins around June 21st, the longest day of the year when the Sun is farthest north in the northern hemisphere and Sun gets the highest meridian altitude. As the axis of the Earth declines 23.5 degrees towards or away from the Sun ecliptic, the meridian altitude of the Sun differs from season to season. It is this declination that creates seasonal changes on the Earth.
The summer solstice marks the first day of the summer. Different from the winter solstice, there are relatively few social activities held in Japan. Farmers usually start rice planting on the day of Han-geshi, the 11th day from the summer solstice. In the Kansai region, people eat octopus on this day in hope that the roots of rice plants will grow steadily like octopus legs. In Sanuki area in Kagawa Prefecture, July 2nd is Day of Sanuki-udon Noodle, because farmers usually entertain assistant workers with Sanuki-udon noodles after rice planting.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Shoman is the 8th solar term. It usually begins around May 21st, when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 60°. Everything on the Earth grow rapidly to its mature size. Fields of wheat ripen into greenish yellow, silkworms eat mulberry leaves greedily, and safflowers come into bloom. In the Koyomi Binran (the Handbook of Japanese Calendar) published in the Edo period, it is written that everything prospers and grass, trees and branches come into leaf.
It is the season when the air is filled with summer vivacity. In haiku, the word “geshi” is the season word for summer.
At Inari Taish Shrine in Saku City, Nagano Prefecture, the annual festival is held to pray for growth of silkworms, rich harvest and business success. It has been held since the Taisho period (1912-1926) and is one of the largest festivals in the Kanto region. Together with the plant fair, more than 500 street stalls line along the front approach.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Kanro is the 17th solar term. It usually begins around October 8th, when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 195°.
Kanro (寒露) literally means “cold dew.” In this season, dew starts to freeze as the air gets colder and colder. It is the time when geese and other winter birds com flying, chrithantumum come into flower, clickets and other autumn insects start singing, leaves turn red or yellow, rice reaping is finished, and biting north winds begin to blow. In the Koyomi Binran (the Handbook of Japanese Calendar) published in the Edo period, it is written that it gets so cold that dew is formed by cold air.
The words concerning food such as Japanese raddish pickles, potatoe stew party, or rice reaping are used as the season words indicating Kanro for haiku poems. Kanro is the season that has close connection with people’s dietary life.