Tuesday, March 18, 2014

9. 菜虫化蝶: "Caterpillars Transform into Butterflies"

(BGM: "Butterfly" by Mariah Carey)

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
仲春, Chushun: "Mid-spring"
Season No. 3: 啓蟄, Keichitsu: 
"Hibernating Insects Awaken"

Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae, 2009, Tsukuba University Botanical Gardens, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Climate No. 9:  菜虫化蝶:
Namushi Chou To Naru:
" Caterpillars Transform into Butterflies" 
(March 15-19)

Spring: a time of emergence, of transformations and metamorphosis. To the delight of aching blossoms and hungry birds everywhere, moths and butterflies slide out of silken sleeping bags and spread their wings for their first flights. The name namushi refers to the Cabbage Butterfly, reputed to be the among the first lepidoptera to grace the greening hills of Japanese springtime.

"Come butterfly
 It's late- 
 We've miles to go together."  -Matsuo Basho

Nettle-tree Butterfly (Libythea celtis)
Between repeating cold snaps and warm sunny days, I was doubtful I'd be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a butterfly in time for this season. Every chance I had, I would poke around hedges and shrubs, straining my eyes for a familiar flash of bright lemon yellow or white.

As luck would have it, just like that, while picnicking in a pleasant little hilltop garden overlooking the sea, a gorgeous Nettle-tree Butterfly flitted into view, resting perfectly still, as if knowing I wanted to take its picture. Painted in all the colors of a Texas sunset, this delicate creature allowed me get this close to it before flying away. It was almost as if I'd dreamed this moment into existence, but the wish materialized into something much more dazzling than I could have come up with in my mere imagination.

Which reminds me of a very seasonally appropriate poem:

"I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man." -Zuiangzi

Maid of Honor being fitted for a furisode  kimono  (Fukutsu City, Fukuoka Prefecture)
In the human world, late March is also a time of transitions: of preparations, ceremonies and closure. Women in Japan don elaborately decorated wings of brightly colored silken thread, preparing for March commencement ceremonies and April weddings.

Meiji University Commencement Ceremony at the Budoukan (Tokyo, 2007)

Meiji University graduates wearing traditional hakama aprons over their kimonos. (Tokyo, 2007)
Corresponding with the fiscal year, in late March all around Japan, government offices, schools and even companies undergo an annual changing of the guard called idou ( 移動, move, transfer). According to tradition, most places have a hush-hush policy demanding that their employees keep their job status a secret until the information is finally released in the local newspaper, or until the end-of-the-year party. (This is why, just two weeks before the end of the year, if you ask your Japanese employee where they will be in a month's time, they'll uniformly reply that they don't know, even if they really do).

This nerve-wracking mix of uncertainty and silence can cause employees an unimaginable amount of stress, as one must think about the logistics of the discontinuation of the old job, and any new costs or inconveniences incurred from taking on the new (if any). Not to mention the pressure this would put on any family involved!

But despite all this hassle, people still find a way to press on, as they prepare to spread their wings and fly to new destinies and challenges. The result is one Hell of a bash at the end of the work year! New horizons can always be worth celebrating!

"Belly Dancing with the Bosses" (c) 2008, Gen, All Rights Reserved
 Here's to the beauty of flight and the changes of life! May next year be even better!

Copyright 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All rights reserved. No part of this blog (written or photo content) may be reproduced or reprinted without the expressed permission of the author.

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