During this time of the year, Wagashi confectioners create New Year sweets including those featuring the theme of New Year’s Waka poetry party known as “Utakai-Hajime. (Waka poems are generally classical Japanese verse forms consisting of 31 syllables in a 5-7-5-7-7 line pattern.) This year’s theme is “Shizuka,” a state of silence quietness, tranquility, or serenity, etc. It’s hard to put this abstract concept in shape but we can associate it with something related to its sound or character. One example is “Shizuka-Gozen,” a Shirabyoushi dancer who lived at the end of the Heian Period (794-1192). She is said to have been a lover of Minamotono-Yoshitsune, one of the most popular samurai military commanders in the medieval times. Yoshitsune’s older brother, Yoritomo is the founder of Japan’s first military government based in Kamakura and their conflict is one of the most famous sibling feuds in Japanese history.
We can find the following episode about her in a classic Japanese history book titled, “Azuma-Kagami. (The Mirror of the East).”

While going on the run with Yoshitsune, Shizuka parts with him due to a shipwreck and gets caught on her way back to Kyoto. She is then transferred to Kamakura, Yoritomo’s military base and ordered to perform Shirabyoushi dance in front of Tsurugaoka-Hachiman-gu (Shinto shrine). She dances to a song with its lyrics longing for Yoshitsune, which makes Yoritomo furious. However, Shizuka is eventually forgiven thanks to his wife, Hojyo Masako.



Photo: “Shizu-no-mai (Dance of Shizuka)”
Karukan made from grated yam, rice powder and sugar sprinkled with black beans sandwiching yokan (jellied bean paste)

Posted on 水曜日, 1月 29th, 2014 at 5:44 PM and is filed under blog in English. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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