A Marriage Between Hemp and Love

by Andra Roman
hemp in japanese culture

 

 A story between Love and Hemp,

one that speaks about the connection that lays between these two words in the Japanese culture

(or at least its history)

 

Moving on to another Asian country, Japan, we learn that Hemp (asa) was the primary material in Japanese clothing, bedding, mats and nets. Clothes made of Hemp fiber were especially worn during formal and religious ceremonies because of hemp’s traditional association with purity in Japan. 

There are some Japanese legends that we thought might be interesting, regarding the subject of “marriage” or at least a metaphorical marriage between “hemp” and “love”.

 

Legend nr. 1

 

“There were once two women who were both weavers of hemp fiber.

One woman made fine hemp fabric but was a very slow worker. Her neighbor was just the opposite – she made coarse fabric but worked quickly. During market days, which were held only periodically, it was customary for Japanese women to dress in their best clothes, and as the day approached, the two women began to weave new dresses for the occasion. The woman who worked quickly had her dress ready on time, but it was not very fashionable. Her neighbour, the one who worked slowly, only managed to get the unbleached white strands ready, and when market day came, she didn’t have her dress ready. 

Since she had to go to the market, she persuaded her husband to carry her in a large jar on his back, so that only her neck, with the white undyed hemp strands around it would be visible. In this way, everyone would think she was clothed instead of being naked in the jar. 

On the way to the market, the woman in the jar saw her neighbour and started making fun of her coarse dress. The neighbour shot back that at least she was clothed. 

“Break the jar” she told everyone who could hear, “and you will find a naked woman”. 

The husband became so mortified that he dropped the jar, which broke, revealing his naked wife, clothed only in hemp strands around her neck. The woman was so ashamed as she stood naked in front of everyone, that she buried herself in the earth so she would not be seen as she turned into an earthworm. “

And that, according to the Japanese, is why the earthworm has white rings around its neck. 

Hemp fiber also played a part in love and marital life in Japan. 

hemp japanese bride

 

Legend nr. 2

 

“Another ancient Japanese legend tells of a soldier who had been romancing a young girl and was about to bid her farewell without giving her so much as his name, rank or regiment, but the girl was not about to be jilted by this handscome and charming paramour. She fastened the end of a huge ball of hemp rope to his clothing as he kissed her farewell. 

By following the thread, she eventually came to the temple of God Miva and discovered that her suitor has been none other that God himself.”

Hemp strands were often hung on trees as charm to bind lovers (as in the legend), gifts of hemp were sent as wedding gifts by the man’s family to the prospective bride’s family as a sign that they were accepting the girl.

 

Hemp strands were also displayed during wedding ceremonies to symbolize the traditional obedience of Japanese wives to their husbands. 

The basis of the latter tradition was the ease with which hemp could be dyed. Just as hemp could be dyed to any colour, so too, according to an ancient Japanese saying, must wives be willing to be “dyed in any colour their husbands may choose”.

hemp facts

This article contains fragments, bits and crumbles from

Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years, by Ernest L. Abel (1980)

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