|Pinellia ternata: 'crowdipper.' (Source: Wikipedia, a Public Domain Image).|
仲夏, Chuuka: "Mid-summer"
Season No. 10: 夏至, Geshi:
I find myself longing for the dry comfort we had just a few weeks ago. All it took was two nights of heavy rain to hoist our humidity level all the way up to one hundred percent. My blow-dried nekoge hair gets wet again after only a fifteen-minute walk and I wonder why, in this time of global warming, sticky, unbreathable polyester is still the norm for business wear. The nights are still cool and comfortable, but everyone around me is grunting "atsui!" (hot).
"The Crowdipper Comes Up"
(July 1 -July 6)
I didn't quite know what to think about this one. A problem many linguists come across while studying any language is that the same word can have various meanings and translations can get all mixed up, especially when they cross national borders. Here we have a vague reference to the phase in mid-summer called hange (半夏), which in Chinese can be translated to mean 'mid-summer' or more technically, the eleventh day after summer solstice.
The issue of exactly which plants associated with this season are correct, however, is where things start to become a jumbled mess. Judging by my references, most artists and authors who specialize in the Shichijuni-ko calendar seem to agree that Pinellia ternata (crowdipper, Jpn: カラスビシャク karasubishaku) is the correct one, as it translates into hange in Chinese.
But looking at the name of the season hangeshou (半夏生), we find it translates directly into Saururus chinensis (Jpn: ハンゲショウ, 'lizard tail' in English), a plant that doesn't even grow in Japan! What we do have is another type of hangeshou, a relative of lizard tail (according to Japanese taxonomy, which is often different from that of the West): Meet the dainty, edible and medicinal Houttuynia cordata (dokudami 蕺草), also known as 'fish mint' for its fishy smell when cut.
|Houttuynia cordata. In English, this is called 'lizard tail,' a relative of Saururus chinensis according to Japanese scientific classification. Found in Miyoshi, Hiroshima.|
All three herbs are important in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine for treating different ailments. And since the names are similar, it would be good if all were officially recognized at the same time.
But enough confusion! Let's clear our minds with a good Basho poem:
"A lightning gleam
into darkness travels
a night heron's scream."
Bird Of The Season: アオサギ, Aosagi, Gray Heron
|A patient gray heron waits for ayu fish handouts on the Uji River (Kyoto).|
|The Philosopher of Arashiyama (Kyoto).|
My husband calls these birds "philosophers," for they look so pensive staring for hours at the water without moving a single muscle. Their serious expressions and steely eyes demand respect. I imagine studying the blue heron's behavior would only improve my leadership skills.
But I don't think I want to sing like one anytime soon.
Flower Of The Season: 凌霄花, Nouzenkazura, Chinese Trumpet Flower
|Defiant Chinese trumpet flower spilling over a wall in Toride, Ibaraki.|
I always look forward to watching these flowers appear. They don't simply "bloom." Their blossoms flare up like a wildfire, grabbing immediate attention as a visual focal point no matter where they're planted. And the hotter it gets, the more intensely they bloom, as if feeding off the heat. I hope I can eventually learn to do the same. The beaches get fiery hot this time of year! Atsui!