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Susuki

Motif Information
Motif susuki 01.jpg
Rōmaji Susuki, obana
English Pampas grass
Kanji 薄, 芒
Kana すすき
Season Autumn
Seasonal Exceptions None
Auspicious No
Motif Type Plant
Pronounciation
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Susuki (Miscanthus sinensis) is also known as obana (tail flower). It is a perennial tall grass that flowers in the autumn.

Susuki both grew wild and was cultivated in pre-modern Japan. Susuki straw was used as thatch and to make matchstick blinds.[1] The seed heads could be used as animal fodder. The roasted ears were considered medicinal and were added to okayu (rice gruel) during the harvest season. Its pulp can also be made into paper. In the spring, susuki fields were cleared for new crops by burning the stubble.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Musashi Plain, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (不二三十六景 武蔵野, 1852) by Utagawa Hiroshige
Susuki outside the window in Autumn Moon of the Mirror, from the series Eight Views of the Parlor (坐鋪八景 鏡台の秋月, 1766) by Suzuki Harunobu

Susuki is heavily associated with autumn and otsukimi (お月見, autumn moon-viewing)[2] which usually falls during the month of September.

Susuki is one of the seven autumn grasses.

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Susuki under a full moon, with or without Mount Fuji, references the Musashi plain,[3] which has now been swallowed by north Tokyo.[4]

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Susuki can be differentiated from shiba by its large tassel-like seed head. Unlike ashi it is not depicted as growing in water or on the banks of streams.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

The Moon of the Moor - Yasumasa, from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (原野月 保昌, 1888) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Susuki has become associated with the story of Fujiwara no Yasumasa from the Uji Shūi Monogatari (宇治拾遺物語, Gleanings from the Tales of Uji), through its use in ukiyo depictions of the story's pivotal scene. On his way home from the Heian court, Fujiwara no Yasumasa is stalked by a bandit who plans to murder him for his fine robes. The bandit is actually his brother, Kidomaru, who was forced to become a bandit after refusing to serve under the powerful warrior, Raiko. Just as he is about to attack his brother from behind, Yasumasa begins to play his flute, staying his brother's sword.

In Poetry

The first recorded mention of the association of susuki with Musashi Plain is in the Heian era waka poetry anthology Ise Monogatori. The association of susuki with Musashi Plain was cemented by Minamoto no Michichika in his famous poem:

Musashino wa On Musashi Plain
tsuki no irubeki there are no mountain peaks
mine mo nashi for the moon to slip between
obana ga sue ni in the plumes of grass
kakaru shirakumo white clouds catch

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • Link to any relevant threads on IG

References

  1. JAANUS Article on Kaya. Accessed on February 13, 2017.
  2. Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli. 2001. p.95.
  3. Trinh, Khanh, ed. Kamisakka Sekka:The Dawn of Modern Japanese Design. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. 2012. p.59
  4. Metropolitan Museum of Art page on The Plains of Musashi. Accessed February 11, 2017.

Image Credits

  • Muhvi

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