If you live long enough in Japan, you might begin to think about “nature” in a different way (what “nature” represents in Canada is markedly different and, perhaps, a topic for another blog post). There is no escaping “seasons” here or the declaration one is bound to hear from Japanese people on occasion: “Japan has four seasons.” At first, this either makes you laugh or it makes you crazy (if the latter, you probably shouldn’t bother staying here much longer) and you reflexively answer with a somewhat sarcastic tone and something like: “So? We have four seasons where I’m from too.”
While it’s true that many of us experience seasons where we are from, what you begin to realize is that, in Japan, “seasons” are more about all the things attached to them than the actual seasons themselves. In other words, every season here is so loaded with culturally significant symbolism that, as time passes, those symbols start resonating with you via some kind of cultural osmosis. How long does it take? Good question…I don’t know…depends on the person, but I’d say not less than three years on average.
The other thing about “seasons” is that it’s not just about the resonance, it’s about anticipation. Often, in a tokonoma, you will find a hanging scroll (kakemono) with either some calligraphy or a painting of a traditional scene or object. The kakemono might be seasonal and, if it is, as the next season approaches, it should be changed to anticipate the upcoming season.
On that note, I was thinking the other day, when doing some mental planning about possible upcoming photography excursions, that ume (plum) blossom season is just around the corner and I’ll be out at the park for the annual viewing ritual in no time. In order to get ready for that, here are some shots from last year. These were all taken at Koishikawa Korakuen, near Iidabashi in Tokyo. [EDIT]: I should add that all of these photos were taken on February 14 last year, which means we are just a few weeks away from blossoms.
And, last but not least, a little bit of a magical scene from the centre of the garden: