Micro-season 34

桐始結花 kiri hajimete hana o musubu :
paulownia trees produce seeds.

大暑 Taisho (Greater Heat): July 23-28

I have always been curious about the Kiri Paulownia or Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa). I had been living in Kyoto for at least a decade before I ever got my first glimpse of a real one, and even that was accidentally whilst on a neighborhood walk through a pharmaceutical botanical garden. It is one of […]

Micro-season 33

鷹乃学習Taka sunawachi waza o narau :
Hawks learn to fly

小暑 Shōsho Lesser Heat: July 17-22

For Kyoto’s citizens, July 17th is always eagerly awaited for two reasons. First, there is a lively street procession of the Gion Festival (which is the oldest continuously running urban festival in the world). Secondly, the occasion of this parade traditionally marks the end of Kyoto’s rainy season “tsuyu“. Even though temperatures are steadily climbing, […]

Micro-season 31

温風至 Atsukaze itaru :
Warm winds blow.

小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat): July 7-11

“Fumizuki ya/ muika mo tsune no/ yo niwa nizu” “On the night before the lovers meet there is the electricity of anticipation in the air” 1 Basho As the long grey days of incessant rain continue during rainy season, the colorful and romantic festival called Tanabata (Star Festival) makes for a particularly enjoyable diversion. According […]

Micro-season 30

半夏生 Hange shōzu :
Crow-dipper sprouts.

夏至 Geshi (Summer Solstice): July 2-6

A few years ago during the beginning of July, I first came across a unique water loving plant with fascinating nomenclature in both English and Japanese. In English known as Chinese Lizard Tail Plant (Saururus chinensis), it has many tiny, fragrant white flowers on a tapering, stalked spike with a drooping tip, hence the name. […]

Micro-season 29

菖蒲華 Ayame hana saku :
Irises bloom

夏至 Geshi (Summer Solstice): June 27-July 1

Here in Kyoto we are well into the “Summer Solstice” period. This is the time when the days are longest in the year. Rainy season “tsuyu” helps to keep the temperatures down so that the full brunt of Summer is not yet felt. It’s hard to believe that we have passed the half way mark […]

Micro-season 28

乃東枯 Natsukarekusa karuru :
Self-heal withers.

夏至 Geshi (Summer Solstice): June 21-26

Late June is really the peak flowering season for various species of hydrangea: ajisai. Everywhere you look in Kyoto, one can see large, globular cluster blooms in colors ranging from white to pink and through to the darkest inky violet-blue. My “relationship”to hydrangeas has been “reframed” thanks to my extended sojourn in Japan. As a […]

Micro-season 27

梅子黄 Ume no mi kibamu :
The Plums turn yellow.

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds): June 16-20

Early summer rain samidare falls on Kyoto at this time. Rain adds a special mood that is remarkably suited to the ambiance of the ancient capital. The high humidity in Kyoto fostered a poetic culture that focused heavily on atmospheric conditions and the long rains of the monsoon period were a major feature of Japanese […]

Micro-season 26

腐草為螢 Kusaretaru kusa hotaru to naru :
Fireflies rise from the rotten grass.

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds): June 11-15

“In summer the nights. Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too as the fireflies flit to and fro….how beautiful it is”. Sei Shonagon (966-1025) I am just back from a “firefly viewing” excursion “hotarugari” at the rice fields on the northern outskirts of Kyoto. Such a lovely thing to do on […]

Micro-season 25

蟷螂生 Kamakiri shōzu :
Praying Mantises Hatch.

芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds): June 6-10

When is a weed not a weed? Perhaps when it has a respected efficacy for healing…afterall, just a flip in perspective can reframe the familiar to create new meaning. Everywhere I go at the moment I encounter drifts of what appears to me, as the most elegant of little white flowers framed by the deepest […]

Micro-season 23

麦秋至 Mugi no toki itaru :
The Time for the Wheat Harvest.

小満 Shōman (Lesser Ripening): May 31-June 5

Recently while cycling around town, I came across a wonderful display of the Blue Passionflower: tokeiso (Passiflora caerulea) on a neighborhood fence. Originally from South America this plant was introduced to Japan relatively recently. The flowers are so distinctively large and I was immediately reminded of the passionfruit vines of my Australian childhood garden. Although […]

Micro-season 23

紅花栄 Benibana sakau :
Safflowers bloom.

小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening): May 26-30

Here in Kyoto, we are currently reveling in some of the best weather of the year. For centuries, the end of May is reliably warm during the days and crisply cool at night. Ritual neighborhood greetings repeat endlessly how perfect the days are, but there is often a rejoinder that comes with a sigh : […]