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The March Suit
Finally back with our Suit series! This week's newsletter is going to be on the March suit.
The March suit features Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), a poetry ribbon and a Jin Maku (Military Camp Curtain.)
It's no secret that Sakura are extremely popular in Japan, so I'll be sharing some interesting tidbits about them.
Sakura is actually only the name of the Cherry Blossom, the actual tree when not in bloom is called Hazakura. The Sakura became extremely popular during the Heian period (794+), surpassing the Ume for flower viewing and eventually becoming the flower of choice for Hanami (flower viewing). Originally Hanami was exclusively practiced by the Imperial Court, however, over time it became popular
with Samurai and this helped it grow in popularity with common folk. Now everyone participates in Hanami. The Sakura have become so important that have become "the" flower of Haiku, When Hana is used in Haiku, it's referencing Sakura.
The Sakura can actually be divided by petal style:
Hitoe: Up to 5 petals
Hanyae: 5-10 petals
Yae: 10+ Petals
Sakura have become so ingrained with Japanese culture that the blooming has become a celebrated event. The Sakura only bloom for a little over a week before they fall, and they bloom around late March. The blooming of the Sakura coincides with the beginning of the school year and the beginning of the fiscal year for businesses. So, many schools and businesses have Sakura trees in front of them, and consider the blooming good luck.
Sakura Zensen: The Blooming Forecast, like weather, in Japan the news stations actually follow the blooming of the trees throughout the country.
Namiki: Streets lined with Sakura
Along with being connected with beginnings and spring, the Sakura is rich in symbolism, it's short life span has been linked to the Japanese concept of Mono no Aware, or the transience of life. Mono no aware is the awareness of impermanence, the gentle sadness about the reality of life. There is obviously a lot more to it, books have been written on the subject, but this is the general gist that I got from my research. This link to mortality, and the beauty of our short lives, made it a very popular symbol for the military, and a symbol of Japanese spirit and Nationalism. Though the life of the blossom is short, the actual tree has a long life span, the oldest being Jindai Zakura at the Jissou temple in Yamanashi Prefecture. Jindai Zakura is over 2000 years old!
The first Kamikaze sub-unit was called the Yamazakura, or the wild cherry blossoms. This encouraged the soldiers to believe that downed warriors were reincarnated as the blossoms. This military connection leads into the other symbol of this suit the Jin Maku (Military camp curtain).
The Jin Maku is traditionally used as a Military Curtain to help set up camp and protect the soldiers from the elements and others. In more modern usage, it's utilized at festivals to separate booths and set up temporary structures (called Tobari).
So the combination for the Hanafuda might have originated with the military but still is fitting with modern Hanami.
Jin Maku are actually pretty interesting, and with the more recent research I did on them, I may need to edit my card a bit. In the 17th century a military manual called Honcho Gunki Ko was written by Arai Hakuseki, laying out very specific guidelines for the usage of Jin Maku.
Everything means something, the number of poles corresponded with the rank of the officer, the size and crest would specify the troops or family. A standard Jin Maku was 5ft tall and while there is not set width the average was 28ft. Prior to the Honcho Gunki Ko the curtains size became standardized in the Muromachi period (1536-1573). The spacing and size of the crests even mattered on the curtain. Only white, black or blue tethers were utilized, and it was very important not to break any rules (so mine might get edited haha). Even the slits to help the wind go through became levels of rank, with only certain ranks being allowed to look through certain slits. With the rise of the Samurai, and the pseudo idolization of military, honor and ritual discipline, the Jin Maku became very sacred, borderline religious symbols.
The final special card is March's poetry ribbon. Similar to the last poetry ribbon, March's ribbon is the only one to say something different. While the others say Akayoroshi, the March ribbon clearly says みよしの Miyoshino. It's believed that Miyoshino on the ribbon is referencing the town in Nara, which is famous for it's blossom viewing.
I really enjoy months like this, ones where the connection between the elements is very obvious. It's fun to learn the history, and why these images were chosen for the cards. I hope you have fun reading about it too!
Please share whatever knowledge you have on the March Hanafuda, and I hope this was interesting! Below are some March cards from some of my decks that I've acquired!
Please scroll down for more March suits from other decks!
My next post will be my first in my deck feature series! Where I'll showcase one of the decks in my collection!
Thanks for joining me again!
Blank Art Project Hwatu
Moon Rabbit Hanafuda "Graphic Style"
Miracle Fish "2012 Black Edition"
Miracle Fish "Original Style"
Nintendo/ Ukiyoe themed Deck by SausagesEverywhere
Nintendo "Club Nintendo" 2007
Nintendo "Mario Edition" 2015
Nintendo "Pokemon Edition" 2013
Moon Rabbit Hanafuda
This blog is going to follow the Moon Rabbit Hanafuda decks, the impending Kickstarter and History of the cards.
Hanafuda: March Suit
05 Feb 2017
Subscribe Mon Feb 6, 2017 4:45 am
- [+] Dice rolls