Take 竹 (Bamboo) — Long life and prosperity

Take 竹 (bamboo) is one of the most important plants in Japan. This seemingly simple plant has literally thousands of practical and decorative applications in daily life, and serve as an integral part of Japanese culture. Different parts of bamboo of different ages can be used from baskets and traditional umbrellas to scaffolding and whole building constructions, and even food. As a decoration, bamboo can be found in various traditional embellishments, as well as a key piece in ceremonies, almost all year long. On New Year three long stalks of bamboo are arranged in kadomatsu 門松 in couples to ward off evil spirits. Half a year later, on Tanabata 七夕 on 7th of July, people would tie a handmade paper ornaments to honor the legend of two lovers, who can meet only once a year by crossing the milky way.

According to Haruo Shirane in his book Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons, bamboo has come to represent long life, prosperity, immortality, fidelity, and chastity…

Different parts of take are associated with different seasons, making it one of the rare trans-seasonal symbols in Japan. Similar to O-shogatsuお正月 (New Year), long stalks of bamboo are included shochikubai 松竹梅 (“The Three Friends of Winter”) together with matsu (pine) and ume (plum), creating very auspicious combination for winter representation. However, due to the trans-seasonal versatility of bamboo, motifs of shochikubai or take can be used and worn all year long, as on one of our traditional kimono silks from Japanese Fusion collection. Sasanoha 笹の葉 (bamboo leaves) can be often depicted as separate motif, with the leaves pointing downwards symbolizing tranquility.

The oldest legend in Japan is about bamboo cutter, called Kaguya Hime or Taketori Monogatari. The story is very popular that is being taught to all children, where a baby girl is found in a growing stalk of bamboo by the cutter and he takes her in to raise. She grows into exceptionally beautiful woman and then reveals that she has to return to her home, which is on the moon.

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Originally published at www.lemiche.com.