The Crane in Japanese folklore
Last week we talked about origami and in the article we mentioned the origami crane. It holds a lot of significance in Japan Mythology and culture especially the red-Crowned Crane. Its long white neck and torso, black legs and black head with a red crown making it one of the most beautiful of its species. It is also known as the world’s tallest flying bird.
To the Japanese, this bird is a national treasure, the symbol of longevity and good luck. There are legends that it can live up to 1000 years. Perhaps that legend of its long life may have sparked the 1,000 origami crane legend as well. Cranes are associated with weddings because it mates for life with one partner and if you look closely to wedding kimonos or wedding décor you might find crane designs weaved into them. Cranes are also associated with the Japanese New Year. You can also find giant necklaces of cranes commonly in Japan at shrines and temples.
To further illustrate the importance of cranes we must look at an old idiom; ‘tsuru no hito koe’ which can be translated as ‘one word from the crane’ and can be understood as ‘the one who had the final unchallenged word’. It shows us how important this majestic bird is to the Japanese.
In Japan, there is an opera named Yuzuru created by Ikuma Dan, inspired by a play by Junji Kinoshita. It tells the tale of a poor farmer that saves the life of a wounded crane. The crane appears to the farmer in human form and becomes his wife. Of course, it later turns to tragedy thanks to the farmer’s greed. It reminds of similar legends like that of the little mermaid as well as the legend of the selkie.
It is a revered bird and if we look at it more closely we can understand the Japanese reverence for this majestic bird. It is not just an animal but also a symbol of something that can bring the hearts of people together, like the origami crane. To read our article on the 1,000 paper cranes and origami, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/the-art-of-origami
Here is a beautiful video of Red-Crowned Cranes dancing in the snow, please follow our link: http://bit.ly/Red-Crowned-Cranes-Dancing
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