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.
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.
Igo is a match-up board game, in which two players alternately place black and white stones on the vacant intersections of line grid on the board called “Goban.” The objective is to control a larger territory than the opponent’s by placing one’s stones tactically. Igo originated in ancient Chinese horoscope, which was carried out around 2000 years ago, and it was gradually changed into the present form. Igo was introduced into Japan in the Nara period (710-794), when it gained popularity among noblemen and priests. In the Edo period, it came to be played by the general public and “Gokaijo (Igo play house)” were established in towns. The Shogunate encouraged the establishment of Go academy and the schools of Honinbo, Yasui, Inoue, and Hayashi competed each other. After the Meiji Restoration, the school system was abolished and anyone could challenge to be a professional Igo player through ability. In these days a manga story has created Igo boom among the young generation, and a lot of young people have become interested in Igo. Igo is also played on the Internet. It can be said that full-scale inernationalization of Igo game has gotten under way.
Incense burning is a unique Japanese art in which fragrant wood is burnt for the enjoyment of its scent.
Fragrant wood was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism and the custom of adding scent to clothes or hair was born. By the mid-Muromachi period, the burning of fragant wood had become stylised in the same way as the tea ceremony and flower arranging.
The basic style of incense burning involves cutting a piece of fragrant wood and putting it into a censer; the censer is passed back and forth so that its scent can be enjoyed.
Incense burning has an element of game and you guess which scent is which by comparing it with the Japanese classics and waka poems relating to it. This is different from other arts but, of course, winning and losing are not as important as enjoying the scent.
Incense burning is a very profound art that integrates one's literary knowledge, etiquette and mastery of books and tools. Many people love this art.
The Fukuno-yotaka Festival takes place annually on May 1st and 2nd and has a history of 350 years. The event derives from a story that people were building a new village in the Fukuno area. They were transferring their god from Ise Shrine, but when they reached the Kurikara valley, dusk fell and people from a newly-established local village lit their way with lanterns.
In the festival today, young men from Yokomachi, Shinmachi, Uemachi, Nanatsuya, Okuramachi, Uramachi and Tatsumimachi wear the same happi coats and hold up 7-meter-high lanterns. There are 20 lanterns in total: seven large and 13 small ones. To the beat of drums, the young men hold the bright-red lanterns and call out 'Yoiyasa Yoiyasa' to the spring night-sky. Their gallant shouts create a magnificent atmosphere. When two parties meet each other in a narrow alley, they are permitted to jump, trample and destroy each others' floats and ornaments. This event is the largest spectacle of the festival.
Karuta games (card game) of Japan originated in the Kaiawase game (shell game) played among the women of the noble families in the Heian period (794−1192). Later in the Edo period (1603−1867), the rectangular cards of Uta-garuta with tanka poems written on them began to be played, which developed into the present Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (poems of one hundred poets). In this game, the Yomite (reader) reads kaminoku (the first 17 syllables of a poem) in the yomifuda (reading cards) and the players have to find its torifuda (grabbing cards) in which the associated shimonoku (the rest 14 syllables) are written. Kyogi-Karuta (competition karuta) is usually played between the two players but three players take part in the game in some cases. Other kinds of karuta are Iroha-Karuta with a kana letter of 48 Japanese alphabets and a picture are written in torifuda while a proverb connected to the picture is written in yomifuda and Eawase-Karuta for infants to learn the language.
Shogi is a Japanese chess game using a board and 40 pieces. In the formal type of the game called Hon-Shogi, the game is played between two players of Sente (the first player) and Gote (the opponent player). The two players alternate taking turns and the game is won when a king is captured. The pieces are divided into eight kinds, each of which is moved or captured according to the rule defined to each piece. The appeal of Shogi lies in the process of running the king to ground by capturing the opponent pieces and using it as the friendly pieces or promoting the pieces to add them different movement. Other than Hon-Shogi, there are some variants such as Hasami-Shogi (sandwiching shogi), in which the game is won when the agreed number of pieces are captured, or Mawari-Shogi for children, in which players cast four king pieces move according to how the piece fall.
The way to play with Bidama (glass marble balls) differs from one locality to another. In one basic version of the game, players draw a square (or a triangle) on the ground. The leading player puts his marble inside the square. Then the opponent player tries to knock the marble out of the square with his own marble. If it shoots the target marble rightly, he will win it, but in return for this, his marble is in the position to be shot. Another version involves digging several holes in the ground. The players take turns flipping their own marbles to shoot the holes according to the designated route. It is possible to add various optional rules to the play, for example, when a player mistakenly shoots another player’s marble on the way, this will carry some penalty. Or the player who reached the goal first will be given the right to hit his marble against another one and so on.