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Momo (peach) as a divine fruit

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/14 Food, Traditional Culture , , , , ,

Peach

Peach is one of the major local productions of Okayama.
Although it had been consumed by people from a long time ago, it is said it was rather an ornament than a food because its taste wasn’t so good.
In Meiji era (1868–1912), when a new, sweeter and bigger breed came from China, many people started to cultivate and improve it.
In 1901, a new breed called “Hakutou” (white peach) was created by a farmer in Okayama.

-Hakutou-

-Hakutou-
Photo from Photo AC

 

Peach is considered as a sacred fruit.
Probably this idea was originally from China.
In Taoism, peach is thought to have a magic power to get rid of evils and give people immortal life, thus a fruit for Xian (“Sen-nin” in Japanese), immortal super-human.
“Tou-gen-kyou” in Japanese (I don’t know how to pronounce in Chinese), literally “Source of peach blossoms” is an ideal place, where Xian live, a paradise.

Peach Tree

-Peach Tree-
The colour of the peach blossoms is probably paler than this in the old times.
Photo from Photo AC

 

Peach in a Japanese old story

There is a story describing peach as a divine fruit in “Kojiki”, the Japanese oldest extant chronicle composed at the request of the emperor at that time and accomplished after his death, in 712.
The story has some similarities to Orpheus in the Greek myths.

Outline

In ancient times, there were a God called “Izanagi” and a Goddess “Izanami”.
The couple were sent to create the land of Japan, and they stayed there.

They gave birth to many gods and goddesses, but when the God of Fire was born, “Izanami” the Goddess died from burns.
Her husband grieved so much, he killed the God of Fire, then made up his mind to go to the dark land called “Yomi no kuni”, the Japanese Hades where dead people go.

-The world of "Yomi"-

-The world of “Yomi”-

 

His wife came to greet him at the door of the gods’ shrine in “Yomi”, and told him,
“You should have come sooner.
I’ve already had food cooked with unclean fire in this land, so it would be impossible to go back to your world.
However, since you came all the way here, at least I can try to discuss with gods in Yomi.
Please do not even think about looking at me until we make a final conclusion”.

After a long time, he had enough of waiting.
He took a tooth of his comb and used it as a torch, then went into the shrine.
Finally he found her completely rotten body.
He was astonished and frightened by the look of her, got literally the hell out of there.
The Goddess went mad with anger, sent demons to catch him.

At a long last, he reached “Yomotsu-hirazaka”, the border between this world and Yomi, where he found a peach tree.
He plucked three peaches and threw them at the demons.
The demons were surprised enough to scuttle in all directions.
He termed the tree “Ookantsumi no mikoto” (The Great God Fruit), said “Please help everybody in Japan in hard times for years to come, like you helped me now”.

MomoOni

-Peach cannons-
Peach photo from Photo AC
Oni illustration from Illust AC

 

“Izanami” the Goddess appeared as the final boss.
Before she could catch him, he blocked the way with a big rock.
She swore she would strangle 1000 people in Japan everyday as a vengeance.
He answered to her that he wouldn’t mind as he would give 1500 births if she really did such an awful thing, then he came back to this world.

Other peach-related things

I only know two peach-related stories, this and “Momotarou”.
Three other peach-things which come to my mind immediately are;

  1. A saying, “Momo kuri 3-nen, kaki 8-nen”(It takes 3 years for a peach and a chestnut tree to bear its fruit from its seed, 8 years for a persimmon tree) meaning “it takes a considerable time to achieve something”.
  2. “Momo no sekku” (Seasonal festival of peach blossoms) a.k.a. “Hina-matsuri”.
    It’s a cerebration for girls on 3rd of March, to pray for their health and protect them against evils.
-Hinamatsuri-Painted by Toshikata Mizuno in 1893

-Hinamatsuri-
Ukiyo-e by Toshikata Mizuno(1893)
Downloaded from GATAG

3)This is rather a play on words.
Anybody who know Japanese alphabet Hiragana, try to make out what this say.
Sumomomo

Answer is here.

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kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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