Monday, 1 February 2010
In front of the Shishinden in the old Imperial Palace in Kyoto there are two trees. The tree on the left (east) was originally was a plum but a cherry replaced this when the Shishinden was rebuilt in 960 following a fire. The tree on the right (west) is a tachibana, an ornamental orange. The tale of how the tachibana got its name is in the Kojiki, the oldest history book of Japan. Long ago, Emperor Suinin heard tell of a tree whose seed was rumoured to bring immortality and eternal youth when eaten. On hearing this story the Emperor sent one of his men, Tachima-mori, to Tokoyo where the tree was said to grow. It took Tachima-mori ten years and one month to locate the tree and return with the fruit, by which time Emperor Suinin had died. When Tachima-mori learnt of the Emperor’s demise he was so overcome with grief and remorse that he cried everyday until his own death. In tribute to Tachima-mori the fruit was named tachimana. Over time the name became corrupted to tachibana. As well as being associated with longevity, tachibana is thought to bring luck. It is one of the myriad of 'treasures'. As with sakura, tachibana have been breed to improve their flowers rather than their fruit which is inedible. Like other citrus trees the tachibana bears flowers and fruit simultaneously. In all the examples I have seen, the fruit is depicted with either 3 or 5 leaves. uchishik is appliquéd with the outlines and details emphasised by couched gold thread.