Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades, an open cluster in the constellation of Taurus dominated by beautifully shining blue stars. The word “Subaru” is derived from an ancient Japanese word “sumaru,” which meant “to assemble.” It is said that “sumaru” became “subaru,” which meant “to unify” in the later periods. The kanji for Subaru (昴) was borrowed from the Hairy Head mansion (昴宿, pinyin), one of the twenty-eight mansions of the Chinese constellations.
The oldest writing that referred to Subaru in Japan is Wamyoruijusho, a 10th-century dictionary edited according to Chinese categories, compiled by Minamoto no Shitago by the order of Isoko Naishinno (Imperial Princess).
In Section 254 of The Pillow Book written by the famous authoress Sei Shonagon around the early 11th century, the following passage can be seen: “The Pleiades, Altair, Venus, the stars most admirable. If only there were no shooting stars to come visiting us at night.” This is the most famous passage in the Pillow Book for those who are involved in astronomy. Admiration for Subaru remains unchanged by time.
Shiroishi washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is presumed that Shiroishi washi paper originates in “the paper from the Deep North,” which is referred to in Makura no Soshi (the Pillow Book) by Seisho Nagon and the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu as
“very soft, pure, elegant and graceful paper.”
Paper making in this area developed after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the town of Shiroishi became a part of the territory ruled by Date Masamune. One of the retainers of the Date clan, Kataoka Kojuro, encouraged local farmers to make paper as a side job during the winter. Since then many craftsmen who were specialized in filtering paper came to this town from the nearby areas. Even today, this elegant and pure washi paper is made by hand in the traditional way. As the paper with very high quality, it has been so highly valued as to be selected the paper used in Omizutori ceremony at Todaiji Temple and the paper for the Japanese Instrument of Surrender after World War II.
Kokawadera Temple, or formally Fumo-san Kokawadera Temple, is an old and distinguished temple located in Kokawa, Kinokawa City, Wakayama Pref. This temple is known for being referred to in Makura no Soshi (the Pillow Book). This is the third temple in Saigoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage and the headquarters of Kannon temples in Kokawa area. In its most flourishing days, the temple had the formal seven buildings, 550 sub-temples, and the fief of 40,000 koku, which came next to Enryakuji Temple in Mt. Koya and Negoro Temple in rank, but was destroyed by fire during Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Kishu Attack. The temple was restored later in the Edo period. The temple has as large as 35,000 tsubo (115,000 square meters) of precinct, as long as 200 m of front approach, and as many as 20 large and small buildings, from which one can imagine its flourishing days. The Omon Gate, the Nakamon Gate, the Main Hall, and Senju-do Hall are all nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. The illustrated history, Engi Emaki of the temple in Shihon-Chakushoku style (paper-based, colored), is a National Treasure painted by a great painter, Toba Sojo (1053-1140).
Kotonomama Hachimangu Shrine located in Yasaka, Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic shrine surrounded with serene forest. Enshrined here area Okinaga Tarashihime no Mikoto, Hondawake no Mikoto, and Tamayorihime no Mikoto. Although the shrine record says it was founded at some time during the reign of Emperor Seimu (84-190), its exact foundation time is unknown. The shrine is listed on Jinmyocho (the list of deities) of Engishiki (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) in the Heian period (794-1192) as Kotonomachi Shrine. It is said that It was transferred to this place under the direct order of Emperor Kanmu in 807 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, when he set out for the East to conquer the Emishi. The shrine is referred to in Makuranososhi (the Pillow Book) as a shrine that “has the power to fulfill any wish.” In 1062, Minamoto no Yoritomo invited the deities of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine here, and since then the shrine has been referred to as Hachimangu. In the large precinct grow a lot of old and huge trees including the sacred cedar tree and a huge camphor tree, which are about 1,000 years old.
Edo sudare blind-making is a traditional handicraft which uses natural materials like bamboo.
In her 'Pillow Book', the Heian-period authoress Sei Shonagon confirms that sudare were used at court. By the early Edo period, the main techniques of sudare-making were firmly established and there were expert sudare craftsmen.
Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), the famous Ukiyoe (woodblock-print) artist often depicted sudare in his works, such as 'Coolness in Hyakka-en', 'A Beauty behind a Sudare' and 'Fuzoku Sandan Girls'. Indeed sudare were common features in the Edo period.
Edo sudare directly express such natural materials as bamboo, lespedeza (Japanese clover), cattail and reed. Bamboo is the most popular material and it is picked between the autumn and spring equinox, when it is firm and takes on beautiful colors.
Edo sudare are still used today as a cool interior decoration and are essential to the elegance of summer.