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 : […]

Micro-season 22

蚕起食桑 Kaiko okite kuwa o hamu :
Silkworms start feasting on mulberry leaves.

小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening): May 21-25

Shōman is one of the twenty four seasonal points. By now it is getting much warmer and many plants are growing well. By late May, the fresh, new green leaves have started to turn a darker green color. Traditionally this is also the time when the little cuckoo hototogisu starts to chirp. I have a […]

Micro-season 21

竹笋生 Takenoko shōzu :
Bamboo shoots appear.

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of Summer): May 15-20

For many years now, I have enjoyed participating in a monthly book club, whose members are committed to reading many of the Japanese literary classics in translation. It took us three years to investigate the 1000+ page tome “The Tale of Genji” Genji Monogatari: widely considered to be the world’s first novel and one of […]

Micro-season 20

蚯蚓出 Mimizu izuru :
Earthworms rise.

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of Summer): May 10-14

One of my seminal memories of the early days in Kyoto, occurred on a Thursday morning in mid May some thirty years ago. I had been visiting my landlady Yamauchi-san for a cup of tea when a kindly, older Japanese gentleman (widely reputed to be the octogenarian’s boyfriend), paid a visit. Unbenownst to me he […]

Micro-season 19

蛙始鳴 Kawazu hajimete naku :
Frogs start singing.

立夏 Rikka (Beginning of Summer): May 5-9

One of my favorite traditional events of the year comes at the end of the national public holiday called Golden Week. The seasonal celebration known as “Boy’s Day” originated at some point during the Kamakura (1185-1336) period with the rise of the Samurai warrior class. However, the fifth day of the fifth month has had […]

Micro-season 18

牡丹華 Botan hana saku :
Peonies Bloom.

穀雨 Kokuu (Grain rains): April 30-May 4

Nothing quite prepares you for the majesty of a peony in full bloom. The extraordinary frill of petals reminds me of amongst other things, a lion’s mane. There are numerous horticultural varieties of peony but the most decorative cultivar known as the “King of Flowers” is the Tree peony botan (Paeonia suffructicosa).There is much variation […]

Micro-season 17

霜止出苗 Shimo yamite nae izuru :
Last frost, rice seedlings grow.

穀雨 Kokuu (Grain rains): April 25-29

Japanese gardens tend to be characterized by an evergreen palette of plants in which bright colors or scents are not foregrounded. Even the frothy pink confection that is the wonder of the cherry blossom in April is typically white or the palest pink. Late April which signals the end of Spring in the lunar calendar […]