Rainman, the Frog, and the Willow

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Hanufada game cards.

On a rainy November morning, I was playing hanafuda, a Japanese cards game featuring trees, plants and flowers for each month of the year  (hana=flower, fuda=card).

The suit featured in November is the willow.

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Hanafuda cards for November.

The most important card in this suit is a man with an umbrella, often referred to as ‘The Rainman’.

I noticed a frog on the card and was curious to know if there was a story behind this image of a man with an umbrella and a frog under the willow.

It turns out the man is Ono no Michikaze (“Rainman”) a famous calligrapher in in Japan.

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Rainman, the frog and the willow (Hanafuda card)

One day, Ono no Michakaze was considering abandoning calligraphy. He went for a walk in the rain.

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He saw a frog trying to grab a branch of willow.

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Each time the frog jumped, the breeze would move the willow branch. The frog would try again, and the wind would move the branch again.

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The calligrapher thought this frog would never reach the willow, but after seven attempts, the frog finally grabbed the willow branch.

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Then, the calligrapher knew he shouldn’t give up.

He went on to become one of the most important calligraphers in Japan.

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If you have a difficult project, and you feel like abandoning, think about the little frog trying to reach the willow branch.

Photos by Jessica Tremblay.

Objects: hanafuda cards by Nintendo,  Japanese paper doll made by a Japanese senior, paperbag cherry tree made by a Burnaby Public Library librarian, frog figurine from a flea market.

 

 

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