What is Kadomatsu?
Kadomatsu is a traditional Japanese decoration made from three different length pieces of bamboo and sprigs of pine tied together into an ornamental arrangement. The three different sizes of bamboo represent heaven, humanity, and earth. This display is simply elegant, and it is believed to have significant ripples for the year ahead – especially when it comes to Oshogatsu or New Year’s, and here is why…
The Role of Kadomatsu
Literally translated as “gate pine”, Kadomatsu is an invitation for the Shinto god Toshigami-sama to enter the dwelling and bring their good luck and fortunate blessings to the family members within. It is said that Toshigami-sama will only visit the homes of those that showcase the landmark of a Kadomatsu at the entrance, saying, ‘come in, you are welcome here’. Toshigami-sama is said to have the power to bring a full harvest season, so welcoming this deity is important for the wellbeing and happiness of the family’s coming year.
The Meaning of the Elements of Kadomatsu
Pine is worshipped in Japan as a symbol of courage, endurance, and longevity for its incredible ability to adapt and stay strong despite less-than-ideal growing conditions. Here on Kaua’i we have the Japanese Sugi Pine up in Kokee State Park, brought to Hawaii in the late 19th Century to remediate soil erosion and control wind break. The Sugi Pine (Crypotomeria japonica) is translated to “hidden parts” which speaks to the notion that pine branches offer a dwelling place for helpful spirits and deities to rest in. Therefore, including pine in the Kadomatsu makes it possible for the deity to reside temporarily within the branches of the arrangement.
Bamboo is symbolic of eternal youth, strength, and flexibility. Continually reaching upwards, striving for great heights, bamboo is also thought to be a useful ally in wishing one’s troubles away. The bamboo may be cut horizontally or oblique to suit style. It is said that ‘oblique’ is a style that developed when the first Tokugawa Shogun slashed a bamboo with his sword instead of his opponent and promised a future victory.
Oftentimes plum blossoms and flowering kales adorn the arrangement. Plum trees bloom in the colder early months of spring, demonstrating their strength and resilience. Kale flowers represents the addition of layers to one’s fortune.
When to Place Kadomatsu and other Important Logistics
There are a few rules to partaking in this tradition. One must not decorate the Kadomatsu before December 13th and it should be burned after January 7th. If burning is not possible than it should be sprinkled with salt before disposing. Before the new year (between December 13 and December 28), the arrangement is placed outside of the entrance of homes and businesses to act as a welcome sign. The arrangement is not to be decorated or placed on the 29th as it is seen as bad luck, and the same goes for December 31st as it is seen as impolite to rush the décor, left to the last day before the new year. This concept is called ‘ichiya kazari’ or ‘one-night decoration’ which is seen to be disrespectful to the visiting deity. Traditionally, the Kadomatsu would be made and placed by men, increasing the luck and strength of the arrangement. It is also advised not to bring the arrangement into the home, but to leave it outside.
Kadomatsu arrangements placed at your door this New Year will invite a happy year to come. Visit us in Kilauea to see our selection. Also, we encourage you to share stories or information you know regarding this intriguing New Year’s tradition.
Additionally, we would like to sincerely thank you for your continued business and send out a big mahalo to all that chose to get a sustainable living Norfolk Island Pine from us. As a reminder, we welcome back the trees to our nursery to continue to be fostered year after year! Garden Ponds is located beside the Kaua’i Mini Golf in Kilauea. We are open Wednesday to Sunday 12-5pm and you can visit our website at gardenpondskauai.com or call us at 808-828-6400 for more information.