Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Kodomo no hi (Children's Day festival) is celebrated in Japan each year on May 5. There are many, many traditions associated with this holiday, the most popular probably being the colorful and picturesque koinobori (carp-shaped windsocks). These magnificent windsocks are flown from flag poles in backyards and fields, or ropes stretched across rivers, to symbolize the strength and bravery of carps swimming against the current. I can't count how many versions of koinobori I have painted over the decades, and they continue to fascinate me as a subject for etegami.
This year, however, I recycled an old etegami I had painted of kashiwa mochi, a confection traditionally associated with this holiday. Kashiwa mochi are dumplings made of pounded rice, stuffed with sweet bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf. In Japan, oak trees are seen as a symbol of the prosperity of one’s descendants. The leaves are not edible, but they transfer a nice earthy fragrance to the mochi.
When I say I recycled one of my old etegami, I mean that I cut up this old, slightly faded etegami, then glued a part of it to a card I had cut out of a shopping bag from a famous traditional Japanese sweets shop. I had been saving the bag for just such a purpose.
The words, which I added with a white gel pen, translate roughly to "While my children go forth into the world and battle dragons, I will stay at home and eat kashiwa mochi." I tried, at one level, to express my pride in my children, and on another level, my relief in knowing that my part in preparing them for the world was mostly successful. I can relax now and enjoy my tea and dumplings.