I received a photo from my third-grade grandson who lives in Shanghai. According to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau, the start of the rainy season in Shanghai this year was June 10th (Thursday), which is nearly a week earlier than usual. The rainy season usually lasts for about 23 days, so it is likely to end in early July. Looking at past examples, in 1936, the rainy season started on May 22nd, and in 1954, it lasted for 58 days. There were also cases like “Kūbai,” where the rainy season lasted only two days, in 1897 and 1965. Shanghai has also experienced a lot of difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s “Zero COVID Policy.” Now, there is an opposite reaction, and it is said that people are overflowing everywhere in Shanghai. Currently, there are not many Chinese tourists visiting Japan as before, but it seems that there are many people who are eager to go to Japan. From around this summer vacation, not only Chinese people but also tourists from all over the world are likely to come. It is a joyous thing. If people can get to know Japan, a country of 和 (wa, harmony), the world will surely become more peaceful.
The elegant swimming of colorful koi fish in the pond, as if passing through water lilies blooming in a highly transparent spring, resembles Monet’s famous work ‘Water Lilies.’ The unnamed pond at Nemichi Shrine in Itatori, Seki City, Gifu Prefecture has come to be called ‘Monet’s Pond’ by people over time. In 1999, the pond was overgrown with weeds, but Mr. Satomaro Kobayashi, the owner of Flower Park Itatori, a nearby flower seedling production and sales company, cleared the weeds and planted water lilies and kouhone. Local residents then brought koi fish that they could no longer keep at home and set free them to the pond. Originally, the pond was created by the spring water from the nearby Itatori River, and it quickly transformed into ‘Monet’s Pond.’ Before long, the information spread rapidly through newspapers, TV shows, and even national broadcasts on NHK, and it became a major tourist attraction with 3.36 million visitors in 2016, seven years later.
I encountered a rare flower. Its name is Jaco Aoi. It is a perennial herb native to the central and southern parts of Europe and is said to have been introduced to Japan for ornamental purposes during the Meiji era, so it has been quite some time since it arrived in Japan. As it is a plant that prefers cold regions, it may not be commonly seen in the Kansai region. The Japanese name of musk mallow is said to be because it has a slightly musky smell. Its English name is “musk mallow,” with “musk” referring to “Jaco” and “mallow” referring to “Aoi,” making “Jaco Aoi” a suitable translation. The petals of the flower range from white to pink, and the diameter of the flower is about 5 cm, resembling the flowers of hollyhocks. It is said to have been used as an herb in Europe since ancient times. Both the flowers, leaves, and roots are said to have medicinal properties and are also used in salads. While Japan’s tachiaoi (hollyhock) is dignified and impressive, the gentle appearance of Jaco Aoi’s flowers is also beautiful.
Plumeria has become well-known in Japan, but in its native regions of Mexico to Panama in Central and South America, it is a considerably large tree that can grow to a height of 7 to 8 meters. It has glossy, deep green leaves and its fleshy flowers come in pink, yellow, white, and red colors, emitting a strong fragrance. In Hawaii, it is a familiar flower used in leis and has become one of the representative flowers along with hibiscus. It is also favored for leis in Pacific islands such as Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand. Plumeria flowers are often worn in women’s hair, with unmarried women adorning them on the right side and married women on the left. Speaking of which, in the famous painting ‘Woman of Tahiti’ by Gauguin, the depicted woman also wears a plumeria flower around her right ear. Furthermore, plumeria is the national flower of Laos, and in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, it is used to adorn graves. plumeria is widely used as a flower in tropical regions surrounding the equator.
I received news from the Northern Alps. Compared to previous years, it seems that there is considerably less remaining snow. In July, the mountains will open all at once. Mount Fuji will open on July 1st on the Yamanashi Prefecture side and on July 10th on the Shizuoka Prefecture side. This year, with the end of the pandemic, it is expected that a large number of mountaineers will flock to the mountains. What worries me is that the number of accidents is likely to increase in proportion to the increase in climbers. Even last year, the number of accidents was about the same as before the pandemic, so I’m even more concerned this year. Looking at these photos, I realize that I can’t speak arrogantly. When I think back now, I deeply feel that I engaged in quite reckless mountaineering. Although I wasn’t with them, two of my mountain companions have also passed away. When I recall the traverse from Yarigatake to Okuhotakadake while watching it on YouTube, my legs still tremble. However, I also feel that something like confidence, gained from such experiences, has become a support for my mind thereafter.
There are two types of sentences: prose and verse. Verse, also known as poetry, is a form of writing that has a specific rhythm and follows certain rules. In terms of content, it can be divided into epic poetry, scenic poetry, and lyrical poetry. Epic poetry generally represents the heroic figures, myths, and history of a particular ethnic group in poetic form. While there are many famous epic poems with a long historical background worldwide, it is said that Japan does not have one. Scenic poetry depicts natural landscapes and other subjects as they are, while lyrical poetry contains the author’s emotions, thoughts, and messages. Today’s haiku is a form of scenic poetry, and if it evokes an image in the reader’s mind through the poetic text alone, it can be considered successful. However, recently a new genre called “Shahai” has emerged, which combines haiku with photographs. Since the photograph directly appeals to the reader as a visual image, the power to convey through words alone and the ability to imagine through words alone inevitably become weaker. It’s like the difference between Buson’s haiku accompanied by a nanga painting and Basho’s haiku.
On a fine day during the rainy season, it might be the most peaceful day of the year. Although we occasionally have scorching hot summer days, most days are just warm. Today, the forecast predicts a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, but despite the humidity being 72%, it doesn’t feel too muggy and I’m in a refreshing mood. I don’t feel like going out far because I want to avoid getting caught in the rain, so I spend a lot of time at home. When I met a neighbor, he told me he bought food for his killifish. When I asked if he kept killifish, he said there were killifish in the drain in front of his house. He had bought food for those killifish. It was surprising to hear that, despite his appearance – though I might get scolded for saying that – he showed such a kind gesture and the fact that there were killifish in the drain amazed me. There is a large water lily pot in front of their house, and small buds of water lilies are peeking out. Underneath the water lily leaves, a few goldfish are leisurely swimming. It seems there are also killifish, but they might be going to school.
Sakurabo (Cherry cherries) have entered the peak harvesting season. If you make a reservation early, they will be shipped all at once during this season. Personally, I don’t particularly feel like eating them, but I sometimes make a reservation because I think my grandchildren will be delighted. Above all, they are red and cute to look at. And the name ‘sakuranbo’ itself is nice. When written in kanji, it becomes ‘桜ん坊’ (‘sakuranbō’), and the ‘bō’ or ‘bōu’ part is a cute descriptor, like in the word ‘akanbō’ (adorable child), which seems to be applied to the cuteness of cherries. At the beginning of the Edo period, when Yusuraume (Japanese plum) was brought to Japan from China, the character ‘桜桃’ (‘ōtō’) was assigned to it, but Yusuraume is a different plant from cherries. Then, at the beginning of the Showa era, a newspaper company in Tokyo began using ‘桜桃’ to represent ‘さくらんぼ’ (sakuranbo), and gradually it became established. Even now, producers refer to cherries as ‘桜桃’ (ōtō). Sakuranbo that seem to blow away the rainy season make you feel the arrival of summer.
When you go to a park during a break in the rainy season, you’ll find a large, red, cotton candy-like plant thriving near the entrance. True to its appearance, it is called “smoke tree” in English and “煙の木” (kemuri no ki) in Japanese. It also has other names such as “白熊の木” (haguma no ki) and “霞の木” (kasumi no ki). Being a visually unique plant, it naturally garnered various names when people first encountered its surprising form. The smoke tree is dioecious, and the cotton-like structure develops on the female tree. This cotton-like structure, known as the flower stalk, is a result of numerous branches connecting the stem and the flowers. Tiny flowers are attached to the ends of the cotton fibers. This unique appearance is designed to facilitate pollination and the dispersal of seeds over long distances. As it belongs to the same family as poison ivy, it is important to be cautious as it can cause allergic reactions upon contact with its sap. By the way, “食べりゃんせ” (taberyanse) is an old literary and affectionate imperative form of the verb, similar to “通りゃんせ” (tooryanse). It is a dialect still used in some regions and means “Please eat.”
Today is the summer solstice. Specifically, it is the first day of the summer solstice. The summer solstice is the tenth solar term of the twenty-four solar terms, which serves as a seasonal indicator. It refers to a period that generally occurs from around June 21st to July 7th each year. On this day, the daylight hours are the longest in the Northern Hemisphere. The exact times of sunrise and sunset on the summer solstice vary depending on the location in Japan, but on average, the sunrise is around 4:30 a.m. and the sunset is around 7 p.m. In other words, the duration of daylight on the summer solstice is approximately 14 hours and 30 minutes, while on the winter solstice, it is about 9 hours and 45 minutes. Therefore, the summer solstice has approximately 5 hours more daylight than the winter solstice. About two weeks after the summer solstice, we enter the period of “shōsho” (small heat), marking the peak of summer. On the day of the summer solstice, various events are held not only in Japan but also around the world, expressing wishes for abundance and prosperity of offspring. In countries like Sweden and Finland in Northern Europe, the summer solstice is even celebrated as a national holiday.