24 Solar Term : RIKKA (from about 5th May to 20th May)
** Please refer Rikka, Shokou.
72 Seasons : JIKOU – “Mimizu izuru” (from about 10th May to 14th May)
If you travel in the countryside of Japan where there are paddy rice fields at this time of the year, you may hear the loud buzzing sound as “geeeeeee” in the evening together with the croaking of the frogs. This loud buzzing sound has long being thought of the earthworms’ in Japan, and yet many still believe it is, though of Mole cricketW’s. Unless digging the earthy ground, finding earthworms are difficult even in the rich nature which direct a question as, ‘how do you know that the earthworms are there if you don’t dig the ground?’
Today’s season phrase is about ‘Mimizu’, the earthworm.
Finding the small heaps of soil-like excrement of the Mimizu can be easily found on green lawn-grown surface as their traces but not on the soil surface ground, like in most of the Japanese house gardens. But the Japanese have known that the worms are there, quite close to them, as you would know that Mimizu was picked as the protagonist of this season, moreover, has been a seasonal word of autumn when they buzz.
One of the major reason for the Japanese being alert to the existence of Mimizu is, of course, that the Japanese have been the agricultural tribe. Known well as a soil amelioration creature today, Mimizu, through experience, were known to our ancestors as the sign of rich soil. People were aware of Mimizu existing lands when seedling for good harvest. This may have made the creature to be respected and to thank for as there is a folklore of Mimizu as penis swells if you pee on it….
Even to those who were not engaged in farm work were aware of Mimizu as they heard what was said to be Mimizu buzzing. It is interesting that many Japanese, even today, think that Mimizu does buzz or hum which is impossible as it has no vocal organs. This recognition seems to have been brought into Japan from the book called “Gujin Zhu / 古今注 (Notes Old and New)” by Cui, Bao / 崔豹 of 6th century, China.
In the book, there is a definition on Mimizu as ‘the creature being a good singer that sings for long time in the ground. It is called as “Kajo / 歌女(singing woman!)” in Jiangdong’.
Believing so, the Japanese added merry explanation to the song of Mimizu would bring fine weather the following day. Still, feeling so close to the song of Mimizu, there remains several poems or notes of the past that capturing the exact moment of singing Mimizu was the difficulty. The vexing feelings remain expressed in some poems. No wonder….!
Finally, the last verb of the phrase. ‘Izuru’ is a Japanese for ‘to come out’. Therefore, the whole phrase expresses that the Mimizu can be seen quite a lot,shallow under the ground, giving our ancestral farmers the clue of rich soil field by this time of the season.
Wisteria, ‘Fuji / 藤’ in Japanese, have long been a familiar plant to the Japanese. The oldest records of Fuji remain as WakaW, Japanese poetries, in ManyoshuW, the oldest collection of Japanese poetries of 8th century.
Compared to 46 poems read on the Japanese favourite flower, the cherry blossoms, in Manyoshu, 26 poems on Fuji exists which should give you how this flower had also been loved by the Japanese as of the beautiful, noble colours and the slight sweet scent under the blooming trees.
Fuji in the old days had the aspect of divine tree because of the flowers which bloom like the rich ear of the rice which seems as though giving out the oracle.
Not only because Fuji makes beautiful blossoms but because of YorishiroW(an object to which the divine spirit is drawn or summoned) like aspect, it was favoured to be planted often in the gardens of the nobles. To share the luck and the power of Fuji, one of the influential clans of 7th century, Nakatomi clanW, may have been granted the name of ‘Fujiwara’ from the Emperor. You can find many family crests which are designed with the motif of Fuji flowers still used.
Besides the beauty and divinity of the flower, Fuji was a useful tree to the people of old days. Its elastic fibres from the bark were appropriate for spinning threads, used to weave out strong but rough fabric.
The fabric woven with Fuji threads was called ‘Fuji-goromo / 藤衣’ worn by working people until Edo periodW though the nobles of Heian periodW wore them as their mourning outfit to show their modest feelings.
Moreover, chairs, baskets and papers could also be made out from the voluble stem. Medicine for stomach cancer is said to be made out from gnarl of the tree, too.
Young green buds could be boiled to eat with vinegar or soy sauce and flowers can be fried into TempuraW or preserved in salt or sugar to be used as Japanese flower tea or sweets. Interesting Fuji kneaded UdonW could be bought or eaten in Kasukabe, SaitamaW or pretty looking Fuji soft ice cream in cone could be eaten in Fuji famous botanical garden, Ashikaga Flower Park.
Needless to say, the beauty of Fuji flowers have been the material of Japanese visual arts. You can see that it is drawn in many Japanese paintings as well as in kimonos, accessories and decorations.
Using Fuji as one of the decorating object even inspired ordinal painters who drew beautiful women, probably high class courtesans. One of the Japanese classical paintings originated in Ohtsu, Omi provinceW called ‘Ohtsu-e / 大津絵’, meaning Ohtsu picture or painting, sent out the figure of beautiful woman carrying big Fuji flower throughout Japan which influenced the traditional Japanese dance scene and KabukiW.
This woman basically dressed up in black kimono with black lacquered hat, carrying Fuji is called ‘Fuji musume / 藤娘’ meaning wisteria maiden which could be found as the name of the traditional Japanese dance title or famous Kabuki program title.
Below is the clip of famous Kabuki actor, Bandō Tamasaburō VW dancing ‘Fuji-musume’.
Kabuki, ‘Fuji Musume / 藤娘’
The Fuji growing in Japan can be classified as two kinds, Yama-fuji and Fuji which are both endemic species of Japan. ** There are about 8 wisteria genus in the world.
Both kinds could be seen all over Japan which has been planted for ornaments, wild grown Yama-fuji seen more in Western Japan.
There are many temples, gardens or parks famous for Fuji all over Japan. You would love the splendid view of large Fuji in bloom if you ever have chance to visit Japan at this time of the year!