March : Yayoi

An alternative name for March is Yayoi which comes from “iya oishigeru” meaning “plants grow luxuriantly”. Spring is coming slowly and often mornings are still acutely cold.One of the most tangible indicators of “haru meku” meaning “becoming very spring-like” is the budding green of the new leaves on willow trees (yanagi) that line the east side of the Kamo River. It is this “beginning” of the season that is most significant aesthetically for the Japanese.

shunshoku koge nashi

Spring is now in its full glory everywhere for everyone

By the time the cherry blossoms (sakura) arrive at the beginning of April, Japanese feel that Spring is already fading even though it buoyant mood still lingers.

Walking around my neighbourhood, I am hit by the pungently sweet fragrance of the white and crimson pink flowering daphne (jinchoge). Here and there we can also see the blossoms of the Japanese quince (boke) which is actually a deciduous tree of the Rose family. Quince blooms resembling plum blossoms in form, flower prior to the appearance of leaves. The branches are often contorted in angular shapes which make for dramatic placement in ikebana arrangements.

My favourite plant of this period is the Rapeseed flower (na-no-hana) (member of the Mustard family). With the warming of the air in early Spring, the bright yellow green flower erupts in fields in rural areas.
Farmers cultivate it for food, pickling the flowers with salt and calling the product “hana-na-zuke“, sold as a famous product of Kyoto. This simple flower (said to be a favourite of the esteemed Tea Master Sen no Rikyu), is one of the symbols of Spring.

 

Na no hana ya/ Yodo mo Katsura mo/ wasure mizu

The impact of na no hana everywhere obscures the Rivers of Yodo and Katsura

— Gonsui