Uzura are Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Wild uzura are migratory birds that overwinter in Japan. Uzura prefer to forage on riverbanks alongside cultivated fields. Their diet consists of a variety of grass seeds, including millet and rice, and insects.
Uzura were domesticated during the mid to late Heian period (11th-12th century CE) as songbirds. Uzura awase (鶉合せ, うずらあわせ）, quail singing contests, were a popular pastime in the Heian court. In the late Meiji period or early Taisho uzura began to be bred for egg laying. The domesticated uzura population was decimated during World War II when most were consumed as food. While some of the egg laying breeds were preserved and revived after the war, the Heian song breeds became extinct.
Today domestic uzura produce eggs, are consumed as meat, and are used in biomedical research.
- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Uzura with chicks would suggest mid-summer, although they are rarely depicted, as wild uzura would have returned to the mainland by breeding season.
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Although uzura are small, averaging 100 grams as an adult, the males are aggressive fighters and they are admired for their martial spirit which exceeds their small stature.
Common Motif Pairings
- Ine or Awa
- Uzurakago (鶉籠, うずらかご）, a quail cage - implies uzura awase (鶉合せ, うずらあわせ）, a quail singing contest
Identification & Style Variations
Uzura are small with a round body and short tail. Their upper bodies and backs are brown and their undersides are dappled cream. Unlike kiji they are seldom depicted with a crest.
Detail of embroidered uzura with grases on haori from the collection of Chamekke
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
In Heian literature and poetry, uzura's association with autumn gives it a tragic quality. Autumn (秋, aki) is homophonous with "to grow weary" (飽き, aki), and uzura are often associated with abandoned houses and mourning a lover who has lost interest.
|野とならば||no to naraba||If I’m abandoned in a field|
|うづらとなりて||udura to narite||A quail I shall become|
|かりにだにやは||kari ni dani ya fa||But surely, briefly hunting me|
|きみは來ざらむ||kimi fa kozaramu||You’ll come, won’t you? |
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Wikipedia Article on Japanese Quail. Accessed December 25, 2013.
- Uzura on Kigo World Database. Accessed December 25, 2013.
- Kurstin, Joseph. Netsuke:Story Carvings of Old Japan. Joseph Kurstin. 1994. p.56.
- Fu, Charles Wei-hsun, editor. Heine, Steven, Editor. Japan in Traditional and Postmodern Perspectives. SUNY Press. 1995. pp. 83-84.
- Ise Monogatari Chapter 123. Accessed October 8, 2016.
- Birmingham Museum of Art
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)