The Hare "Usagi" as a motif in Japanese art

There is an old Chinese/Taoist tale of a hare that resides in the moon and pounds the magic herbs to make the elixir of eternal life. The hare was considered sacred and was believed to live a thousand years–becoming white only when it had reached the end of the first five hundred years. This belief was assimilated by the Japanese who see the hare in the moon pounding mochi or rice cakes instead of magic herbs.

The Iris as a Japanese Motif

It was once believed that iris gave protection from the evil spirits that were abroad on the fifth day of the fifth month, and traditionally boys would bathe with its sword-like leaves on this day. The iris also symbolizes the warrior spirit, and along with the koinobori (flying koi pennants), is displayed on May 5th as part of what was once Tango no Sekku but has now become known as Children’s Day.

The Koi in Japanese Art

There is a well-known legend dating back to ancient China about one koi that traveled the long distance upstream against the strong Yellow River current and successfully made it over the infamous Dragon Gate Falls, a seemingly overwhelming barrier. It was such an impossible task that the koi was rewarded by being transformed into a dragon.

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