無 is the first character form of 舞 ‘dance.’ When following the classification of the traditional ‘Six Categories or Scripts of Characters,’ 無 is regarded as a ‘loan character’ which shares the same on-reading with another character. As, however, the classification method if the ‘Six Categories or Scripts of Characters’ was created to analyze the corrupt forms of the Chinese characters a thousand years after their origination, to think they were invented along these guidelines is a mistaken conclusion.
As the very first stage of Kanji is pictographic, it is obvious that on this stage the meaning ‘nothing’ cannot be expressed. With thought becoming more abstract in later times, therefore, ‘loan characters’ were very useful. Rather than naturally developing, however, ‘loan characters’ are a group of characters that receive their meaning by convention and custom. That 無 is the first character form of 舞 can be known from the tortoise plastron and bone characters. There, it actually is the form of a dancing human being with decorations hanging from both sleeves.
The Lun Yu of Confucius, Chapter 12, has “ … went to the 舞雩 ‘rain altar.’ ”
雩, read ‘u’ in Japanese, means a place for rain dance rituals or sacred music. The meaning ‘nothing, not’ can also be regarded as having its origin in the state of having ‘no rain.’ If understood this way, there is no need anymore to rely on the notion of ‘loan character’ for 無.
Anyway, explanations like “It shows a house burning down thus resulting in the meaning ‘nothing at all’,” which the author once heard in China, are misleading.
As a pictograph and according to the oldest character forms from the tortoise plastron and bone characters, it shows a small water current or flow. The tortoise plastron and bone characters have the form with three water splashes and both sides emphasizing its splashing state, however, in the bronze inscriptions this emphasis is decreased. Instead, the drops on both sides are reduced to two and it already is abbreviated to a form nearly identical in structure with the character form of the present Common Use Kanji.
Although this character clearly does not show rain, there is something about it reminding a little of rain. Nevertheless, it is not a rain drop falling down straight from heaven; it depicts the state of natural water flowing and purling, splashing water about forcefully. In China, in the Warring States period close to the time when Confucius lived, the so-called five elements theory explaining everything coming into existence from the elements wood, fire, earth, metal, and water appeared. Water was traditionally held important as one of these elements.
In the ‘Book of Rites’ and the ‘Mencius’ one can see the allegory of comparing the man of virtue with water; the ‘Lăo Zĭ’ lauds the humble but strong nature of water. In the early character dictionary ‘Shuō Wén Jiě Zì, Setsumon Kaiji: Explanation of the Simple and Analysis of the Complex Characters’ from 1900 years ago which was the commonly accepted explanation of Kanji until Shirakawa Kanji Science, the explanation of 水 is forced to follow the Yin-Yang theory which was the political philosophy of that era, holding that the middle represents Yang and the both sides represent Yin.
Mt. Poroshiri (2,052 m) is in Biratori Town in southern Hokkaido. It is a part of Hidaka-Sanmyaku-Erimo Quasi-National Park and is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. As is named “Poroshiri,” meaning “a huge mountain” in the Ainu language, it is the highest mountain in the Hidaka Mountain Range, which is called “the spine of Hokkaido.” The mountain was formed by the elevation of the seabed about 1,300 years ago and long-period erosion by rain, snow and wind has created its rugged peaks. The top of the mountain commands a panoramic view of Hidaka mountains, which are overlapping with one another and continue far and wide.
The mountain is the treasure trove of flora and fauna including many species of alpine plants that come into bloom and form a field of flowers in July, Japanese pikas and black woodpeckers.
On the side of the mountain are three cirques named Nanatsunuma Cirque, Kita Cirque and Higashi Cirque, which are amphitheatre-like valleys, or valley heads, formed at the head of a glacier by erosion. The largest Nanatsunuma Cirque has seven ponds, which can be seen only in the snow melting season.
The Furepe Waterfall located on the western side of a World Heritage site, Shiretoko Peninsula, in the eastern part of Hokkaido is a unique waterfall that flows directly down into the sea. The rain and snow that fell in the Shiretoko mountain area permeate into the ground, and then the ground water runs out of the cliff to form this 100 m high waterfall. Different from other waterfalls that continuously flow into rivers, this waterfall flows gently with a smaller volume of water, from which it is also called “Maiden Tears.” Why is this young lady crying though living in this magnificent nature’s bosom of Shiretoko? On a fine day, a rainbow hangs over the waterfall as if the nature and the sea of Shiretoko are trying to comfort this lady in tears.
Nagatsuki is a Japanese traditional name for September on the old calendar. The word is however used for September on the new calendar today. It falls on the period from October through November on the new calendar.
There are a lot of theories as to its origin. Some of them state that it is a shortened form of Yonaga-tsuki (a long night month), a pun for Nagame-tsuki (a long rain month) or a pun for Nagori no tsuki, which means a month when a remnant of the full moon can be seen. Still another states that as it is the month for rice harvest and the 長 character has the meaning of swelling, people named the month to cerebrate the swollen ears of rice plants. September on the old calendar is also called Nezametsuki, which means a month of waking up in the morning.
September 1st is the National Disaster Prevention Day, when disaster-preparedness drills are conducted all over the country. The day was established to mark Great Kanto Earthquake, which attacked Japan on this day in 1923. The national holidays in September are Aged People’s Day on the 3rd Monday and Autumnal Equinox Day on the 23rd.
The umbrella was invented in ancient China as a canopy to be held over a nobleman. In 552, during the Asuka period, the umbrella was introduced to Japan through Kudara (the Korean peninsula) as part of Buddhist ceremonies.
The umbrella in Japan was originally called 'kinugasa', but because it came from China ('kara'), it was also called 'karakasa'. The original form of the umbrella was improved over time: the center tube and ribs were made from bamboo, and the covering was made from oilpaper, waterproofed with persimmon, linseed oil and China wood oil. Despite its strong water resistance, its major flaws were that it was neither light nor durable.
There are two types of Japanese umbrella: the bangasa (coarse oilpaper umbrella) and janomegasa (snake-eye umbrella/paper umbrella). The janomegasa is made from paper, is blue in the center and at the edges, and white in between, and looks like the eye of a snake when viewed from above. This umbrella does have variations, such as painted black rings on the surface and the application of other astringent materials.
Currently, the kano umbrella, made in Kano, Gifu Prefecture, is proud to be to the only place in Japan to be a major producer of traditional Japanese umbrellas.
Kariya Mando Festival is a historical festival held in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture. It is designated as an important cultural asset of the prefecture.
Kariya Mando Festival has a history of 200 years. When vicious hunger attacked the people, the Kariya Castle lord wished for rain: rain followed and saved the people. Therefore the festival is also called the 'rain-making ritual'.
'Mando' is a picture of a warrior in armor. Mando is also like a large lantern 5m long and 2m wide. The mando is made of wood and washi paper. The mando is carried by the townspeople. At night the lantern is lit and the warrior depicted on the lantern is iluminated to create an imaginary world.
Kariya Mando Festival is held annually on the last Saturday and Sunday of July.
The Awa Dochu are earth pillars located near Awa in Tokushima Prefecture. In 1934 the area was designated as a Natural Treasure.
Over millions of years, this gravel terrace was eroded by wind and rain, leaving these strange pillar forms. The Awa Dochu are more like an earthen wall than earth pillars.
These dochu were formed about 1.3 million years ago, when the area was under a river. At Hatouga-take, there are many 10m-high pillars standing in an area about 9km from north to south, and 50m from east to west.
Awa is one of three major sites in the world where earth pillars can be seen, the others being Tirol in Italy and the Rocky Mountains in the North America. Earth pillars are very rare landforms and are studied by geologists.
These pillars appear to be art forms created by nature; the sight of them fills us with an awe of ancient history.