- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
Katatsumuri refer to land snails which are also known as dendenmushi (でで虫, でんでんむし). Katatsumuri are gastropod molluscs that carry their shell on their back. When threatened by predators, katatsumuri withdraw into their shells.
Most katatsumuri have lungs and breathe air, but some have gills and must stay in damp environments to continue breathing. All katatsumuri use mucus to keep their bodies moist and help them crawl. The mucus creates a characteristic trail or track that is associated with katatsumuri.
Katatsumuri hibernate in the winter, emerging in the spring to mate. They may be observed all summer long foraging in gardens, especially on early mornings or after a rain.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Katatsumuri's association with rain projects a cooling image popular in the summer months.
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Katatsumuri is part of the trio of animals called the sansukumi (三竦み, three way stand-off or the three cringing ones), comprised of the snail, snake, and frog. When played as a game, snail beats snake (poisoning it with its mucus), snake eats frog, and frog eats snail.
Common Motif Pairings
Identification & Style Variations
Katatsumuri are easily recognized by their spiral shell. Japanese depictions also emphasize the "horns" on its head and the mucus trail it leaves behind.
Katatsumuri on fukuro obi from the collection of Tzippurah
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
Kagyū (蝸牛, The Snail) is a kyogen play about a servant sent to catch a snail for his master. Not knowing what a snail is, he asks for a list of snail attributes. He is tricked by a yamabushi into thinking that the wandering priest is snail, as he is found napping in a thicket, has a black head, carries a shell, etc. The yamabushi tricks him into doing a silly song and dance about snails, which gets the servant into trouble when his master comes to see what is taking him so long.
Kobayashi Issa wrote over fifty haiku on the subject of snails. Arguably his most famous was:
|そろそろ登れ||soro-soro nobore||inch by inch, climb|
|富士の山||fuji no yama||Mount Fuji!|
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Link to any relevant threads on IG
- Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli. 2001. p.158.
- Brazell, Karen, ed. Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays. Columbia University Press, 1998. p. 255-66.
- Haiku Guy on Snails Accessed February 28, 2017.
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)