Karasu in snow
Copyright Stuart Price
|Kanji||烏 (also 鴉)|
|Season||Autumn & Winter|
Karasu (English: Raven or Crow), are medium to large size birds, with strong feet and bills, known for their intelligence. Part of a large family of birds called Corvidae, which in Japan, includes the Common Raven (Watari-garasu), the Carrion Crow (Hashiboso-garasu), the Daurian Jackdaw (Kokumaru-garasu), the Rook (Miyama-garasu), the Large-billed Crow (Hashibuto-garasu), the Eurasian Jackdaw (Nishi-kokumaru-garasu), the Brown Necked Raven (Chaeri-garasu), and the House Crow (Ie-garasu). Corvids are found worldwide except for the tip of South America and the polar ice caps.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Crows are an unofficial emblem of autumn in Japan.
In general, ravens and crows are thought to be inauspicious, a Japanese proverb says:
Karasu ga naku to kyoji ga aru
'The cawing of a crow presages some calamity.
However, the crow that caws on New Year’s Day, the most auspicious day of the year, is called Kin-u and is thought to be a symbol of the sun and a prediction of a good year ahead. As the three-legged crow or Yata Garasu (八咫烏) is the messenger of the Shinto sun-goddess Amaterasu and the emblem of the Kumano sect of Shinto.
Crows can also be understood as a symbol of filial piety. Japanese folklore holds that a crow feeds its parents when they grow old in return for their care when it was young. The crow's cry, "kō," is a homophone with the word for filial piety (孝, kō).
Common Motif Pairings
- Rakuyo no (deciduous trees) (autumn & winter)
- Ame (rain) (autumn & spring)
- Yuki (snow) (winter)
- Sakura (cherry blossoms) (spring)
- Momiji (maple leaves) (autumn)
- Yanagi (willow) (winter)
- Sagi (heron) (winter) - The pairing of a heron and crow is a metaphor for the opposites of ying and yang.
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) is Japan’s most renowned writer. His haiku about an autumn crow broke with tradition by using nine sound units in the second line rather than seven and is one of his most famous poems. The three main elements of the poem, the branch, the crow, and autumn evening, are juxtaposed to enhance and reflect each other.
|古枝に||kareeda ni||on a withered branch|
|烏の止まりけり||karasu no tomari keri||a crow alights|
|秋の暮れ||aki no kure||autumn evening|
- Corvidae - Wikipedia
- Birds of Japan
- Bird Word: Corvids
- The Animal in Far Eastern Art
- Japanese Proverbs and Sayings
- Chado the Way of Tea – Hatsu-karasu
- Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
- Atsuharu Sakai. Japan in a Nutshell, Vol. 1. Yamagata Printing Co. Yokohama. 1949. p. 233.
- The Walters Art Musuem - Tsuba with a Crow and Heron
- Copyright Blue Ruin 1
- Simply Haiku – Haiku in English
- BookRags - Basho
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: Helen Thiselton (Immortal Geisha (IG Username))
Contributors: Naomi Graham Hormozi (Immortal Geisha (IG Username))