Micro-season 11

櫻始開 Sakura hajimete saku :
First cherry blossoms.

春分 Shunbun (Spring Equinox) March 26-30

“Cherry blossoms, oh cherry blossoms Across the spring skies As far as the eyes can see Fragrant in the air Come now, come now Let’s go and see them…” So say the lyrics of the traditional Japanese folksong often sung in international settings as the unofficial national anthem. Every year Japan waits with feverish anticipation […]

Micro-season 10

雀始巣 Suzume hajimete sūku :
Sparrows start to nest.

春分 Shunbun (Spring Equinox) March 21-25

The colorful blooming plant that I have been enjoying in my neighborhood recently is the Japanese quince boke (Chaenomeles lagenaria). Like its cousin plum blossom, it is also a deciduous tree in the Rose family. The flowers also resemble plum blossom albeit larger in size and even more dramatic in color. The most common varieties […]

Micro-season 9

菜虫化蝶 Namushi chō to naru :
Caterpillars become butterflies.

啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects Awakening) March 16-20.

As a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis so does Spring come out of Winter. In the Japanese aesthetic world, “butterfly” is a word synonymous with Spring and it appears in innumerable paintings and waka poetry. This week I enjoyed partaking of a traditional sweet wagashi with the name hanabiyori meaning “perfect day for flowers”. The […]

Micro-season 8

桃始笑 Momo hajimete saku :
First peach blossoms.

啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects awaken): March 11-15

Even though my one hundred year old wooden house has no insulation or heating, as spring continues to emerge, I find myself emboldened to spend a greater amount of time on the engawa verandah sipping my morning coffee as the sun radiates through the sliding glass doors. I feel very much kindred with the famous […]

Micro-season 7

蟄虫啓戸 Sugimori mushito o hiraku :
Hibernating insects surface.

啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects awaken): March 6-10

Recently I was reminded yet again that magic happens surprisingly often in Kyoto, not on demand but when the conditions are right. I had been wanting to see the fabled plum blossom grove at the venerable Jonangu Shrine for years but have always been out of the country on a return trip to Australia when […]

Micro-season 6

草木萌動 Sōmoku mebae izuru :
Grass sprouts, trees bud.

雨水 Usui (Rain water): March 1-5

With the arrival of March, the changing of the seasons becomes more and more visceral. Harumeku meaning “becoming very Spring-like” is evidenced on new leaf budding for Willow trees along the Kamo River in Kyoto, or from grass putting forth new shoots in fields. Another very seasonal image is na no hana or the cruciferous […]

Micro-season 5

霞始靆 Kasumi hajimete tanabiku:
Mists start to linger.

雨水 Usui (Rainwater): February 24-28

What a fantastic afternoon it turned out to be visiting my friend Richard’s garden in Northern Kyoto recently. The garden is a jewel box of traditional design which despite its modest dimensions is lavish with magnificent stone features, an ornamental pond and three statuesque 70 year old black pine trees kuromatsu. Winter is one of […]

Micro-season 4

土脉潤起 Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoru :
Rain moistens the soil.

雨水 Usui (Rain water): February 19-23

Ume ichi-rin/ ichi-rin hodo no/ atatakasa A plum tree! Just enough warmth for one blossom. Ransetsu We are now at the beginning of Usui: “rain water” which is the second seasonal point after Risshun: “beginning of Spring”. Even though it remains cold on many days, it is also acknowledged that the warmer Spring air is […]

Micro-season 3

魚上氷 Uo kōri o izuru :
Fish emerge from the ice.

立春 Risshun (Beginning of Spring): February 14-18

Although the concept of the micro-seasons is both ancient and timeless, I confess to being challenged to remain completely faithful to all the poetic phrases that so eloquently describe each moment in the annual cycle. Especially as an urban dweller in the 21st century, I had to rack my brains as to where I was […]

Micro-season 2

黄鶯睍睆 Kōō kenkan su:
Bush warblers start singing.

立春 Risshun (Beginning of Spring): February 9-13

After a gloriously balmy weekend of 20 degrees celsius it was quite a shock to return to -2 degrees this morning. When I ventured outside I was met by the slightest drift of snowflakes. Although it is “officially” spring and there is some evidence of budding in plants, it still feels like a “tug-o-war” between […]