January, 2016

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
our previous issues.


New Year Greeting!

Year of Monkey- My year!

Hello, friends. 
I hope you are well and happy at the beginning of the new year, 2016.
This is a year of monkey in Asian countries.
In Japan too, we respect the animal of the year. There are 12 animals, real and imagined.
A person who was born in a year of one animal is called "Toshi-otoko, or Toshi-onna" which means "Man or Woman of the Year" in every 12th year of the animal.
I, Harumi Okochi, is a Toshi-onna this year. I am a monkey. This is my 6th monkey year. Did you figure out my age? Well, please keep it secret!

This month, my plan is to introduce popular monkeys in Japan.
Monkeys appear in legends, folk stories, children's stories, songs, art, religious scenes, toys, amulets or talismans. In Asia, many countries have love and respect to monkeys. Monkeys helped kings to build the country, like seen in Rāmāyana of India.
I hope you will enjoy meeting these amazing monkeys.

Hida-Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
High in the mountain, covered with deep snow, children had no toys to play with. Grandmothers made these dolls for children.
Saru means monkey and bobo means baby.
The color red was believed to guard you against bad things like disease or bad fortune.
 Thousand monkeys "Senbiki Zaru"
Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine Amulet, Osaka
The word "Saru" means "leave" when used as a verb.
This is the reason that if you decorate a Saru (monkey) in your house, bad things will "leave" your house.
   Monkey on the back of a deer
Itsukushima Shrine, on Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture
Clay bell
If you shake, it rings softly. It is a warm sound.
The deer on Miyajima Island are respected as God's deer. Also, monkeys are many here.
 Monkey on persimmon
Hamamatsu City
Folk toy
Papier-mâché (Hariko)
This monkey's neck swings.
If you touch him, he nods for a while, just like saying, Yes, yes, all right, dear.
   Monkey on catfish
Folk toy
Aomori Prefecture
There was a belief that a gigantic catfish under the earth causes earthquakes.
This monkey, a messenger of God, tries to put down the earthquake.
Japan needs many god monkeys.
 Monkey holding chicken
Folk toy
Koga Village, Nagasaki Prefecture
   Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine amulet
Shiga Prefecture
Masaru (God's monkey)
Monkeys were often thought to be messengers from the God.
Sometimes monkey itself has a deity.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Clay doll

   Nobori-zaru (ascending monkey)
Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture
In Edo period, poor samurais' wives made these toys to make a small amount of money.
The flag above the monkey is a kind of sail, and when it receives wind, the monkey ascend the pole.
Parents wish their children to rise in the world.
 Handicraft of cereal stem.
Tochigi Prefecture
Simple and warm toys
  Kamakura Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kanagawa Prefecture
Wood carving called "Itto-bori"
Kimekomi Ningyo
Wood carved and covered with silk
Which monkey do you like best?
My favorite one is the right picture monkey.
Father gave me a set of three monkeys some 60 years ago. Their feet and hands have delicate curves, and they can hang down from a tree or from each other. Father made me giggle changing their posture day after day. It is my great regret that I have lost two of them. I don't know when and how I lost them.
This is the last one, and I will never lose it anymore. She is myself, and she always encourages or comforts me.
"Hang loose, Harumi!"
I hope you will have a fantastic year of monkey.
Don't hang down your head! Just hang loose!!


Thank you very much for joining me.
I hope you will visit us again next month.

 Mail to Harumi Okochi