This character cannot be seen among the tortoise plastron, bone, or bronze inscription characters but from the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script on. Certainly, it can be divided into a left and right part. It, however, would be too rash to jump to an A+B style mathematical explanation. Dr. Shirakawa summarizes: “The meaning is to realize an oath.”
Rather than a mere superficial interpretation like that of a 言 ‘kotoba: word’ that 成る ‘naru: realizes,’ one has to take the customs and religion of ancient China into consideration here. As was pointed out in the explanation of 信, the 口 of the lower part 言 is a vessel for putting in prayer writings. The meaning of the upper part with its four horizontal lines is hard to understand from the form of the Common Use Kanji. Its original form and meaning has to be understood in the context of the tattoo and ritual body painting culture. It shows the form of an instrument, a needle with a handle for tattooing. Already this part 言 only has the meaning of words of oath to the gods.
The part 成 shows the form of the ritual of completion performed after the making of a 戈 ‘hoko: halberd’ is finished, adding a decoration. This means that the left and right character parts have their origin in religion.
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.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City in Aichi Prefecture from early in March to late in May every year. The 31 festival floats, decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings by master sculptors, valiantly march through towns and dedicated to local shrines.
In the Itayama district, three floats are pulled to Itayama Shrine and one to Hachiman Shrine. The parade of the giant floats pulled by a crowd of men in traditional festival costumes is really overwhelming.
The dances such as Lion Dance, Miko-mai (the shrine maiden dance) and Sanbaso are dedicated at both shrines. The Itayama Lion Dance performed at Hachiman Shrine is a traditional performing art passed down since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The Hina Festival of Murata is an event that takes place on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of March in Murata, Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture.
During the late Edo period, Murata flourished with the harvesting of thistle saffron. The town prospered through the trade of saffron and various goods between other regions of Japan.
The elegant hina doll is one item that was traded. During the hina festival, people adorn their houses and storehouses with old-fashioned dolls as well as dolls that were made after the Meiji period up to the present day.
The Hina Festival of Murata has been beloved and passed on from generation to generation.
Chrysanthemum and Maple Leaf Festival is held at Hirosaki Botanical Garden in Hirosaki Park from the middle of October through the early November every year. It is counted as one of the four largest festivals in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. The festival originates in a chrysanthemum contest held by local chrysanthemum fancier group, who enjoyed appreciating the flowers grown by each member while viewing beautiful autumn leaves.
The highlight of the festival is the display of life-sized chrysanthemum dolls, which represent the famous scenes of the dramas including the NHK’s Taiga Drama of the year. Other objects such as Mt. Iwaki and the five-story pagoda made of chrysanthemum flowers are exhibited. Together with Japanese maple trees ablaze with red and yellow leaves, chrysanthemum flowers raised with loving care add gorgeous colors to the ruins of Hirosaki Castle.
The works of topiary, which is the art of ornamental gardening, are also displayed. The branches and leaves of chrysanthemum are trimmed into fantastic geometric shapes or animals.
Ainu is an ethnic group on the Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Its culture uses a very distinctive pattern called Ainu-monyou or Ainu pattern for their clothes, furniture and ceremonial instruments.
Ainu have many differing designs largely based on two basic patterns: one is a swirl pattern called Moreu in Ainu language and the other is a parenthesis pattern called Aiuushi which means things with thorns. The patterns are designed not only for decoration, but also have some symbolic effect of warding off evil spirits. They are commonly embroidered in cuffs, collars and the hem of clothes. By looking at the pattern one can tell which region it comes from. There are many theories as to the origin of the patterns, but there is no definite explanation.
To express their fondness for the opposite sex, Ainu women used to give an embroidered tekunpe (a cloth to cover the back of the hand and wrist) and hoshi (a cloth to cover the shin) with Ainu pattern while men used to give menokomakiri (small sword) curved with Ainu pattern. Ainu people believed they imparted part of the soul to their handmade crafts and valued them accordingly.
Nowadays, Ainu patterns have more design varieties and have wider applications such as for skirts and blouses.
Koinobori Festival, or Carp Streamer Festival, is held in Kanna-machi, Tano-gun, Gunma Prefecture. From the late April through the early May, about 800 carp streamers are flying along the upstream of the Kanna River. The festival was first held in 1981 by the local people bringing their family’s carp streamers. It is said to be the trailblazer of the festivals of this kind, which can be seen many places in the country now.
As many as 30,000 people from all over the country come to see this overwhelming scenery. From May 3rd to 5th, a lot of events including the fair for local vegetables and products, Japanese drum performance, various street performances are held on the river bank. Visitors can also enjoy a river cruise on carp-shaped rafts. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable summer event.
Miyazaki Jingu Taisai, or popularly called “Jinmu-sama,” is an annual festival held at Miyazaki Jingu Shrine in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture. The festival represents a Shinto ritual in which Jinmu-sama, or the enshrined deity Emperor Jinmu, pays a visit once a year to the people that live in the distance and therefore cannot visit the shrine.
During this festival, a parade of 1,000 people disguising themselves as ancient people or deities marches the 5 km way from the shrine to the tentative shrine placed in the middle of town. The highlight of the festival is the parade of richly decorated “Shan Shan” horses (so named due to the sound of the bells they wear). This represents a newly married couple visiting Udo Jingu Shrine (Nichinan City), which was a custom of the local people in the Nichinan area. The parade reproduces the scene of the tired couple on their way home from a long journey over many mountain passes. The spectators along the course erupt into cheers and applause to see the bridegroom taking the reins in his hand and the bride on the horse, which makes shan-shan sound.