2015年5月19日 星期二

Japanese Children's Day in Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區之日本兒童節)

One of the deepest impressions I got during this visit to Japan is how much their traditions are affected by Chinese culture, including even the its mistakes! What do I mean? In  China, we got a 4-character idiom (成語), roughly translatable as a "Carp's Leap Over Dragon Gate" [鯉躍龍門]. According to Chinese legend, a small carp swam upstream to Lung Men (Dragon Gate) in Shanxi Province, China and tried to leap over it. It tried and tried and tried. But no matter how hard it tried, it failed. Its complaints over the difficulties was overheard by a bigger carp. The bigger carp told its junior. "Little carp, what're you complaining about. I tried 3 years and still haven't made it! But I believe that if I persist, my dream will come true one day." Shortly thereafter, it succeeded. The smaller carp followed suit and made it too after another 3 years. Dragon Gate is a place at the tip of South West Shanxi. the place to which  The Great Emperor Yu (大禹) channelled the waters of the  Huanghe (黃河) or Yellow River when he was struggling to tame the flooding problem by removing rocks and gravels from that difficult river, often said to the cradle of Chinese civilization according to the Book of Documents (尚書.) There he encountered some serious problems. He had to dig through the high mountains there before it the water could pass through because it was a waterfall which measured some 80 strides wide. There the water came thundering down from the steep and jagged rocks above.

The legend of the leaping carps at Dragon Gate came from [藝文類聚 卷九十六] (Yiwen Leiju , literally: "Collection of Literature Arranged by Categories") of the Tang Dynasty, where it was said that thousands of carp gather at Dragon Gate in spring every year,those which made the leap became dragons. Later others added to the legend the detail that it was lightning from heaven (天火) scorching the red carps' tails which helped them make the needed jump.

According to [說文解字],Shuōwén Jiězì (literally: "Explaining and Analyzing Characters"), often shortened to Shuowen, an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty the big carp is called "鱣" and the big" 鱣 "is called "鮪" , which can transform itself into the shape of a dragon (龍). In fact, the reason why the carps jumped at Dragon Gate was that they were frightened by the thundering water and the leaping carp which jumped over Dragon Gate exists nowhere but in our imagination.

The legend of the leaping carp was handed down from generation and generation in China as a tale to encourage the young to work hard until they succeed and through the mouths of the visiting Tang Dynasty Buddhist monks to the Japanese, became a part of Japanese legend too.  Every year, during the Japanese Children Day (originally 5th day of the fifth moon or Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) or (端午節) and now the May 5 according to the Western calendar, all Japanese families hoist up the  "Koinobori", carp windsocks, carp streamers or carp banners.In Japanese culture, the carp symbolizes courage and strength because of its ability to swim up a waterfall. Through them, the Japanese express the the hope that their boy in each family will grow up healthy and strong like wild carps. During this festival, some people will put up a warrior doll or a yoroi armor set in the house to symbolize courage, and Koinobori and huge carp-shaped windsocks will be hung outside their house. Originally, the celebrations were confined only to the boys and their fathers and the day is called Tengo no Sekku or Feast of Banners or Boy's Day.

On this day, most Japanese families would hoist up the carp-shaped koinobori flags, with one carp for the father, one for the mother, and one carp for each child (traditionally each son). Families also display a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto, due to their tradition as symbols of strength and vitality. Kintarō (金太郎),  or "Golden Boy" is a folk hero from Japanese folklore,, a child of superhuman strength, raised by a mountain hag on Mount Ashigara, friends of mountain animals and later, after catching Shutendouji, the terror of the region around Mount Ooe, he became a loyal follower of Minamoto no Yorimitsu under the new name Sakata no Kintoki (坂田 金時). He is a popular figure in noh and kabuki drama. The Japanese put up a Kintarō doll on Boy's Day in the hope that their boys will be as brave and strong as him.Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa (oak) leaves—kashiwa-mochi (mochi filled with red bean jam) and chimaki (a kind of "sweet rice paste", wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf)—are traditionally served on this day. Like everything else, when things Chinese came to Japan, they became imbued with native Japanese elements.
In Japan, the girls have their own special day, (Hina-matsuri) (雛祭り), also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day,  celebrated each year on March 3 on which day, platforms covered with a red carpet are used to display a set of ornamental dolls (雛人形 hina-ningyō) representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.  But In 1948 the Tengo no Sekku  was changed  to celebrate both boys and their fathers as well as girls and their mothers and it was renamed Kodomo no Hi

This is the entrance of one of the temples we passed through on our way to Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區)

The surrounding hills were as green and clean as ever

The car park at Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區)

Fluttering over the river are all kinds of Koinobori (鯉幟) or carp wind socks/streamers in blue, red, purple, red and mixed colors

They are hung on more than two dozen lines strung across the river banks

Judging by the number of carp wind socks, this town probably has many children

A literal forests of carp streamers. I wonder how long it takes to make one.

Some of the steamers have not just painted scales but words written on their bodies

The words looks to be the names of the children

Some of them look really quite alive

There is a free hotspring foot bath

But no one seem interested. Probably because the place is full of similar baths 

The water of the stream looks really clean

This is where we are waiting for our coach to take us to our lunch

The house is half buried in flowers

Really beautiful yellow flowers

and colorful leaves too

Opposite to where we were waiting, there is a small work shop dedicated to the art of living