Takenokone given death poem, posthumous name.

Kyoto has a reputation as Japan’s most cultured city, where an appreciation for a harmonious way of life is considered a matter of course. This includes respect and reverence for nature and its blessings, and since last month a bamboo shoot has been enjoying celebrity status in the city’s Gion neighborhood.

Locals took to calling it the Takenokone, a play on words with “takenoko,” the Japanese word for bamboo shoot, and “cone.” The Takenokone appeared without warning on the sidewalk of the intersection next to Yasaka Shrine in late April, right in front of the Izuju sushi restaurant, where true to its name it functioned as a traffic cone, as seen in the video here.

At first glance, it looked like the bamboo shoot had sprouted up through the sidewalk, but the truth is that it was placed there by Norio Kitamura, the owner of Izuju, while the restaurant was under renovations. Kitamura received the roughly 80-centimeter (31.5-inch) bamboo shoot from a friend, and set it up as a traffic cone in hope that it would brighten passersby’s day.

Japan is always happy when there’s an intersection between cute, quirky, and cultural things, and during the Golden Week vacation period the Takenokone had plenty of visitors. However, those coming to see it in mid-May were startled to find an actual plastic traffic cone in its place, with its tip covered with the outer layer of a bamboo shoot’s skin.

On May 13, a written notice was added to the cone, explaining that “On May 11, Takenoko-sama ascended to heaven.”

“Takenoko-sama achieved great things while working admirably as the Takenokone, and was loved by many in its life,” the notice continues, in a format mimicking memorial messages written for recently deceased people in Japan. It even includes a photo of the departed, as is Japanese custom, although it replaces the traditional black frame for death notices in Japan with a bamboo shoot-colored one.

Also in keeping with Japanese funerary traditions, the notice includes a death poem for Takenokone and also conveys upon him a posthumous name, Mosoin Suzume Homare Asa Hori Takebayashi Koji, with the Takebayashi portion meaning “bamboo forest.”

Reactions to Takenokone’s departure and respectful written goodbye on Japanese Twitter have included:

“Rest in peace.”
“Beautiful. I’d expect no less from Kyoto.”
“What a stylishly Kyoto thing to do.”
“Takenokone, I saw you working so hard in a TV report. Rest well.”
“I just went to go see it today, and was so sad to find out it’s gone.”

Kitamura himself was the one who wrote the notice. “I’d be happy if I was able to make visitors to Kyoto feel happy,” he says, and while saying goodbye to the unlikely celebrity is bittersweet, Takenokone definitely gave people something to smile about these past few weeks.

Sources: Maido News, Yomiuri Shimbun, IT Media, Twitter (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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