見るだけで つばが湧き出る 夏みかん Just by looking, Saliva springs forth— Summer mandarin.

I still remember the first time I ate a summer mandarin. It was when I visited my mother’s hometown around the time I was in elementary school. In the backyard, there was a large summer mandarin tree with plenty of them hanging. I knocked them down with just a pole, peeled off the skin, and the moment it touched my mouth, I spat it out. It was so sour that it made me jump. Even now, as I recall that moment while writing this, saliva comes to my mouth. When I brought them home and told everyone about it, there was laughter. My aunt brought baking soda, and by applying it, we discovered that they became delicious. Nowadays, there is a similar variety called ‘Amanatsu,’ and it’s sweet without needing baking soda. Summer mandarins are said to have originated from a mutation of the Citrus maxima variety that drifted to Aoshima in Yamaguchi Prefecture carried by the Kuroshio current during the mid-Edo period. From this sudden mutation of summer mandarins, the ‘Amanatsu’ variety was born in 1935.


春を告げ 間も無く消える 節分草 Announcing spring, And soon to be gone- Setsubun-so.

Setsubun is just around the corner. In the mountains and fields west of the Kanto region, a flower known as Setsubun-so, also called the ‘herald of spring’ or the ‘princess of spring,’ begins to bloom. True to its name, it starts blooming around the time of Setsubun, which gives it its distinctive name. However, in the Kanto region, it seems to bloom after Setsubun has passed. Setsubun-so emerges in the dead of winter, its flowers blossom, leaves flourish, and then its above-ground parts wither, entering a dormant phase until autumn. It only shows its face above ground for about three months in a year, and its delicacy and transience make it a beloved and charming wildflower.
Setsubun-so has a height of about 10 cm, and its flowers are small, around 2 cm in size. The flowers themselves are quite unique. What appears to be white petals are actually sepals, while the petals are located inside, resembling yellow, rod-like structures that look as if they are filled with abundant nectar. Numerous stamens are found on the inside, and further inside are the pistils.
The formal scientific name for Setsubun-so is ‘Eranthis pinnatifida.’ The genus name ‘Eranthis’ has its roots in Greek, combining ‘spring (er)’ and ‘blossom (anthos),’ signifying a flower that blooms in spring. In English, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Spring Ephemeral’ or ‘Winter Aconite.’ The latter name, ‘Winter Aconite,’ includes ‘aconite,’ referring to the toxic plant monkshood, suggesting a winter monkshood.
Although Setsubun-so is native to Japan, environmental issues and overharvesting have led to a decline in its natural population. Consequently, it has been designated as a near-threatened species by the Ministry of the Environment.

節分草の正式な学名は「Eranthis pinnatifida(エランティス ピンナティフィダ)」です。属名のEranthisは、ギリシャ語の「春(er)咲く(anthos)」が語源で、春に咲く花という意味を持ちます。英名では「スプリング・エフェメラル(春のはかない命)」とか、「winter aconite(ウィンター アコナイト)」とも呼ばれたりします。「winter aconite(ウィンター アコナイト)」は、aconite=アコニチンが有毒植物のトリカブトの意味で、冬のトリカブトという意味になります。

可憐にして 乙女椿の 美しき Lovely and fair, the maiden’s camellia blooms beautifully.

Otome Tsubaki (the maiden’s camellia), aptly named ‘Pink Perfection’ in English, is a charming beauty. Camellias, originally from Japan, were introduced to the West in the 17th century. Their evergreen nature even in winter and the ability to bloom in the shade made them highly popular. They are affectionately known as ‘Camellia’ in Europe and the Americas. Embraced in the world of art, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera ‘La Traviata’ is particularly famous. Numerous varieties with luxurious blooms based on Western aesthetic preferences were created.
Among them, the Otome Tsubaki, originally from Japan, gained popularity when it was taken overseas during the Edo period, earning it the nickname ‘Winter Queen.’ It is characterized by the fact that the yellow stamens that characterize camellias are not visible, and it is called “Sen-e-zaki”. While blooming mostly from March to April, some varieties also flower in November and December. While the sasanqua flowers fall one by one, the camellia flowers fall off together, but this Otome Tsubaki’s flowers have a long shelf life and do not fall off easily, so the brown flowers often remain on the branches.

英語名’Pink Perfection’がピッタリの乙女椿です。日本原産の椿は、17世紀に日本から西洋に伝来すると、冬にでも常緑で、日陰でも花を咲かせる性質が好まれ、大変な人気となりました。欧米でも”カメリア”という名で親しまれています。芸術の世界でも好んで取り上げられ、ジュゼッペ・ベルディのオペラ『椿姫』は特に有名です。欧米の美意識に基づいた豪華な花をつける品種が次々と作り出されました。

十重二十重(とえはたえ) 寒さも何の 冬キャベツ Wrapped in many layers of leaves, The cold does not frighten me – Winter cabbage.

In the field where the frost has cleared, cabbages are lined up as far as the eye can see. Each cabbage, with its thick and large leaves, is tightly wrapped layer upon layer. Winter cabbage is characterized by its densely packed leaves, and the leaves are fleshy. When eaten raw, it has a firm and crunchy texture, and when cooked, its sweetness intensifies. This cabbage, native to Europe, is one of the oldest vegetables consumed since ancient Greek and Roman times. The wild variety did not form heads as it does now, but records from the 13th century in England mention cabbage forming heads. Introduced to Japan in 1709 by the Dutch in Nagasaki, it was initially cultivated as an ornamental plant known as “Habotan.” It wasn’t until the Meiji era that it became widely cultivated as a food crop, thanks to the introduction of heading cabbage. In ancient Rome and Greece, cabbage was consumed for its digestive health benefits. Today, there is still a digestive medicine called “Cabbagein,” derived from compounds extracted from cabbage.


憂きことも 雲散霧消の さくらかな Even sorrowful things Vanish like clouds and mist— When seeing cherry blossoms.

From Izu comes news that the Kawazu cherry blossoms are in full bloom as seen in the photos. According to the flowering forecast announced by the Shizuoka Prefectural Institute of Agriculture and Forestry Technology, Izu Agricultural Research Center in Higashiizu Town on the 25th, in the case of one-third blooming, Kawazu Town blooms on February 10th and Minamiizu Town on February 9th, which is still 6 days earlier in Kawazu Town and 5 days earlier in Minamiizu Town compared to last year, so the cherry blossoms in the photo are It was in full bloom quite early.
Kawazu cherry blossoms are known for their long viewing period from blooming to falling, lasting a month. However, the best time to see them is said to be when they are 6-8 days away from full bloom, as they have a vibrant appearance. While it would be ideal to enjoy cherry blossoms during their full bloom period, predicting the exact timing for Kawazu cherry blossoms is quite challenging. The full bloom period lasts at most around one week, and after reaching full bloom, the petals do not fall immediately, but the vigor of the flowers diminishes as leaves emerge.
The annual Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival has been held between February 10th and March 10th since 2015. However, due to the trend of earlier flowering in recent years, the festival has been scheduled from February 1st starting in 2022. Yet, with the rapid warming trend, it is anticipated that the festival’s timing may need to be adjusted even earlier in the coming years.


南禅寺 雪を潜れば 悟り門 Nanzen-ji, Beneath the snow, the gate of enlightenment 

Due to heavy snowfall recently, Kyoto has turned completely white. One of Japan’s top three gates, the Sanmon of Nanzen-ji, is also covered in snow, creating a world reminiscent of an ink painting. While temple gates are commonly referred to as “山門 (Sanmon),” for large temples, they are often specifically called “三門 (Sanmon),” meaning the three gates of liberation. These gates symbolize the three stages of liberation: Ku (emptiness, not being attached to things), Muso (non-discrimination, not distinguishing based on appearances), and Musaku (non-attachment to desires). In essence, these gates represent the path that those seeking enlightenment pass through to approach the realm of the Buddha. Nanzen-ji is the first imperial-sanctioned Zen temple in Japan, holding a special status among the Kyoto Gozan and Kamakura Gozan, making it the most prestigious Zen temple in Japan. It is said to have been donated in 1628 by Todo Takatora to commemorate his vassals who died in the Osaka Summer Campaign. In kabuki, the actor Ishikawa Goemon is famous for striking a pose and exclaiming “What a magnificent view!” from this Sanmon. The temple grounds feature numerous historical buildings and gardens, including a water bridge reminiscent of a red-brick arch over the Lake Biwa Canal, adding a touch of charm to Nanzen-ji’s historical atmosphere. Visiting the renowned Yudofu restaurant ‘順生 (Junsei)’ is also one of the pleasures.


梅に雪 暦通りの 寒さかな Snow on plum blossoms, According to the Japanese old calendar, It is the expected cold.

The Japanese calendar is made up of 24 solar terms, which divide the 360 days of the year into 24 parts, and 72 lords, which divide each solar term into 3 parts (初侯Shoko, 次候Jiko, 末候Makko), totaling of 72. Today marks the last solar term, ‘Daikan’ (大寒), and specifically, the last part, ‘Fukino hana saku’ (欸冬華). It’s surprising how accurate this calendar is.
In ancient Japan, there was no precise calendar, and it followed a natural calendar based on natural phenomena. It is said that the adoption of a calendar became evident around 690 AD when the Chinese lunar-solar calendar was introduced. From then until the creation of the Japanese lunar-solar calendar, Teikyōreki, by Japanese hands in 1685, it continued to use this lunar-solar calendar, which was adjusted several times. Although there were attempts to create unique calendars based on the lunar-solar calendar by the Japanese, lunar-solar calendar was primarily used until the calendar reform in 1872. After the reform, it transitioned through the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian calendar.
While the Gregorian calendar may feel like a simple calendar, the old lunar-solar calendar mentioned earlier had a closeness to Japanese life, and I personally find it appealing.


子や孫を 思う心が 吊るし雛 The heart that cares for  Children and grandchildren hangs  Various dolls in the air. 

The scene of the ‘Hina no Tsurushi Kazari Matsuri’ (Hanging Doll Decoration Festival) that began on the 20th in Inatori, Higashi-Izu Town, was featured on NHK television. The history of ‘Tsurushi Hina’ in Inatori is ancient, dating back to the late Edo period. At that time, Hina dolls were considered luxury items, beyond the reach of common people. Unable to display Hina dolls, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and even neighbors who couldn’t afford such dolls brought together scraps of their old kimonos. They crafted small dolls with various motifs symbolizing the health and happiness of girls. Connecting them with strings, they started the tradition of ‘Hina no Tsurushi Kazari,’ a unique Japanese sewing craft, which has been passed down to the present day.
The culture of Hina no Tsurushi Kazari, originating in Inatori, is said to have spread to various regions afterward. Particularly, the ‘Sagemon’ in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, the ‘Kasa-fuku’ in Yamagata Prefecture, and the ‘Hina no Tsurushi Kazari’ in Izu Inatori are known as the ‘Three Great Hanging Decorations of Japan,’ attracting numerous visitors each year.


大雪の 予報をよそに 土肥桜(トイザクラ) Whether aware of heavy snow or not, Doi cherry blossoms in full bloom.

With news of the coldest air this winter and the fear of heavy snow, I was surprised to hear the news that the Toi cherry blossoms in Nishi-Izu are in full bloom. While the Kawazu cherry blossoms are well-known as early bloomers, the Toi cherry blossoms bloom about a week earlier. This rare cherry blossom only blooms in the Toi area of Izu City on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula. The roots of the Toi cherry blossoms date back to around 1958 when the late Professor Yoshio Ogawa, an honorary professor at Hokkaido University, discovered a rare cherry blossom at a clinic in Doi and began propagating it through grafting.
The Doi cherry blossoms start to bud in mid-December, begin flowering in mid-January, and continue to bloom for about two months until mid-February. Their distinctive feature is the deep pink color of the flowers, with each branch bearing 6-7 blossoms, creating a vibrant red hue throughout the cherry tree.
While the concept of the “sakura front” is often associated with the blooming of Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms, the leading edge is determined by Okinawa, where Somei Yoshino doesn’t bloom. In this case, the benchmark is the blooming of Okinawa’s Kan-hi-sakura (cold red cherry) blossoms. Since the blooming of Okinawa’s Kan-hi-sakura blossoms and the Toi cherry blossoms are almost simultaneous, the Toi cherry blossoms can be considered the earliest blooming cherry blossoms in Japan.

この冬一番の寒気で大雪の恐れと言うニュースと並んで、西伊豆の土肥桜が満開と言うニュースを聞いてビックリです。早咲きの桜として河津桜がよく知られていますが、土肥桜はそれより1 週間程度早く咲きます。同じ伊豆半島の西海岸にある伊豆市の土肥地区にしか咲かない珍しい桜です。土肥桜のルーツは、昭和33 年頃、北海道大学の名誉教授である故小川義雄氏が、土肥の医院で偶然見つけた珍しい桜を持ち帰り、接ぎ木で殖やし始めたのがはじまりです。
土肥桜は12 月中旬から蕾が膨らみ始め、1 月中旬から開花し始め、2 月中旬までの約2 か月間咲き続けます。 花の色が濃いピンク色になるのが特徴で、一枝に6~7個花をつけ、桜の木全体が華やかに紅く染まります。

たこ焼きを いまだに丸く 焼けないよ Unable to cook  Takoyaki still not round  Even now, a challenge

I still remember the first place where I had takoyaki. It might be because it wasn’t an era overflowing with delicious things like it is now, but anyway, it was delicious. The shop was a little away from home, but whenever I got some pocket money, I would always go there. After a while, our neighbor started a takoyaki shop and ate almost it every day. Since I had been cherished by the neighbor since I was little, it was always an extra-large portion. Now, takoyaki is well known, with takoyaki shops lining up along Osaka’s Dotonbori, and some places have queues with customers, including many foreigners, which is surprising. It seems that the origin of takoyaki dates back to 1935 when Tomekichi Endo, the founder of “Aizuya” in Nishinari-ku, Osaka, came up with the idea. Nowadays, takoyaki is a soul food for the people of Osaka, and almost every household has a takoyaki maker. Recently, frozen takoyaki has also been introduced and has become a popular frozen food in Osaka.