'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
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.
'Kan' (as in 環境 'Kankyo': environment, surroundings) has a form that shows a rather deep meaning. The upper part of the character is 'eye.' ○ means 'gem' or 'precious stone.' Apart from the character form made up of these three elements, there is also a character form with the 'gem' classifier. The 'gem' classifier (the character's radical on the left) takes the form of a 'cord' passing through three 'gems.'
Actually, 'Kan' is related to funeral customs and the belief in resurrection from death and faith. As the 'eye' above is open, it symbolizes resurrection from death. In antiquity, it was the custom to bury a dead person with his or her possessions. This character takes the form of a gem around the neck of the deceased's dress. As can be seen in the character 含, there also was a custom of placing a gem in the deceased's 口 mouth.
Dr. Shirakawa mentions, in works such as 'Koshiden: The Life of Confucius,' that Zhuang Zi (in 'The True Classic of Southern (Cultural) Fluorescence') often describes such customs as above. However, as is to be expected from a leading Daoist, he is rather critical and negative. For example, in Zhuang Zi's 'Miscellaneous Chapters, Esoteric Things,' he satirizes Confucians who retrieve gems attached to corpses following exact descriptions of the deceased's possessions in 'The Book of Odes,' which later Confucians have regarded as a moral authority. Dr. Shirakawa has pointed out that in the work of Nishida Kitaro, a representative philosopher of Japan, one can see good influence from Zhuang Zi, who, in a sense, has philosophized the world of Chinese characters. In this respect, Kanji have a dimension that connects the past with the present.
環境 'Kankyo: environment' is closely related to the fate of mankind. Wouldn't it be a really appropriate character to think about when maintaining a healthy environment?
The Shinji Falls is the generic name for the six waterfalls located in the mid-stream area of the river flowing through Shinji Valley in Kitahira in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture. The word “shinji” means the Three Sacred Treasure (the Imperial Regalia of Japan), consisting of the sword, the mirror and the jewel, which have been handed down as the symbol of the Imperial succession.
It is not clear why the falls were named so, but their shapes and brilliance in the sunbeams streaming through the leaves of trees do give a divine impression.
Each of the six waterfalls has a distinctive flow. Metaki (the Female Waterfall) is a 13 m tall and 1 m wide straight waterfall. The Second Waterfall is a 13 m tall two-staged waterfall, the lower stage of which is divided into two flows. The Third Waterfall is a 5 m tall and 2 m wide straight waterfall, Otaki (the Male Waterfall) is an 18 m tall and 8 m wide plunge-typed waterfall, the Fifth is 6 m tall and the Sixth is a 12 tall three-staged waterfall.
Of the 6 waterfalls, only Otaki is safely accessible. You can go down to the basin of the dynamic flow and enjoy cool splashes of water in summer.
Katakai Festival serves as the autumn festival of Asahara Shrine in Katakai Town in Ojiya City, Niigata Prefecture. It is a historic festival handed down for 400 years. Held for two days from September 9 to 10 every year, the festival is famous for its impressive fireworks, which are considered contributions to the shrine as offerings to the deities.
During the festival, the shrine performs the rituals such as Tama-okuri, at which a firework's explosive device is presented as an offering to the shrine, and Tsutsu-hiki, at which a tube for launching fireworks is offered to pray for the successful shooting of fireworks.
As the town of Katakai is the birthplace of 3-shaku dama (round fireworks with a circumference of about 90 cm), numerous 3-shaku dama fireworks are gorgeously shot up into the sky during the festival. The 4-shaku dama (120 cm in circumference) fireworks, which create an illumination of 800 meters in diameter in the sky, have also been successfully set off and recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest fireworks in the world.
As many as 15,000 fireworks in total number are displayed during the 2-day festival period. The giant fireworks blooming in the night sky above the town symbolize the pride of pyrotechnists in Katakai.
Karabitsu Kofun located in Kawanishi-cho, Shobara City, Hiroshima Prefecture is a keyhole kofun (Imperial tomb) with a square front and round back. It was designated as a Historic Site by the prefecture in 1993 because it is a very rare kofun in that it is a relatively large kofun in this area and that it has a stone chamber dug into the side of the wall.
This is the 8th largest kofun in the city. The width of the front part is 14.4 m, the diameter of the back part is 28.8 m and the total length is 41.4 m. The stone chamber, 2.4 m wide, 13.1 m deep and 2.6 m high, is the largest in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture.
A lot of historically valuable articles supposedly made in the late Kofun period (the late 6th to the 7th centuries) have been excavated from the chamber including Sueki pottery, earrings and, an iron harness, an elaborately worked gold-coated large copper bell and a silver gardenia-shaped Utsuro-dama (hollow bead), which is the first archeological find of this kind in the areas except the Kinki region.
Pochi-bukuro is a small envelope in which to place New Year's gift money. The envelopes are also called “Otoshidama-bukuro.” These are a kind of small-typed Noshi-bukuro (a traditional Japanese wrapper used to give money as a gift). The term “pochi” is said to have come from “pochitto” in Kansai dialect or “kore-ppocchi” Kanto dialect, both of which mean “very little.” This type of envelope was originally used when one gave a gift money to a Geisha or Geigi. As the amount was usually small, an envelope came to be used instead of kaishi paper to prevent the money from dropping off. Since the middle of the Showa period, Pochi-bukuro has been used for New Year’s gift money and come in many patterns such as paintings of congratulatory figures. At the present, anime characters are most favored by children.