Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
仲秋, Chuju: "Mid-Autumn"
Season No. 16: 秋分, Shubun
|A mole cricket tries tickling his way back to his favorite marigold patch (Fujishiro, Ibaraki 2003).|
Climate No. 47: 蟄虫培戸
Mushi Kakurete To Wo Fusagu
"Hibernating Insects Burrow"
(September 28 -October 2)
Sunshine still falls warm on grateful skin. Hibernating insects, reptiles, amphibians and other cold-blooded creatures utilize this precious time to excavate and perfect their burrows before the chill winds make their limbs too stiff to move. Meanwhile, I'm busy airing out my winter futon covers, plugging in my kotatsu (heated table) and getting my own humble abode weather-proofed for the chilly months ahead. Something tells me it's going to be a cold one!
|Tonosamagaeru (殿様蛙, Black-spotted pond frog, Pelophylax nigromaculatus)|
Flower Of The Season: ホトトギス, Hototogisu, Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)
|An exquisite hototogisu delights me along my hike through Sankeien Gardens (Hiroshima).|
Named after the elegant spotted feathers of the lesser cuckoo, the toad lily can be spotted on mossy, shaded mountain slopes in refreshing sprays of soft coral, magenta, and purplish brown. Hardy and long-lasting as cut flowers, hototogisu are an autumnal favorite of ikebana artists and florists. The blossoms are small and easily missed unless you know what you're looking for. I was fortunate enough to have already seen one in a flower arrangement at my place of work, so I could recognize it right away in its natural habitat. What an unexpected treat for the eyes, in a season associated with everything "dying back."
Taste Of The Season: 栗, Kuri, Chestnuts
|A ripened chestnut someone set on display (Shigaraki-no-Sato, Koka, Shiga Pref).|
I grew up in a land with no fruit or nut trees, so you can imagine my alarm at first sight of a chestnut bur. One day while walking along a quiet wooded path in northern Ibaraki, I noticed these spiny hedgehog-like balls of ouch scattered all over the trail. I thought for sure that a seafood lover had dumped urchin skeletons in the woods to get rid of them (unfortunately, not an uncommon practice in this country). But hang on a minute! Where's the fishy smell! I looked up to find more spiny balls clinging from a stately, sturdy tree draping above me and added two and two together in my head. A few more minutes and it dawned on me: NUTS! FREE NUTS!
"I'll take these back
For the city slickers
Sour chestnuts." -Matsuo Basho
|Marron paquet (bottom) and mont blanc (top) from Kikujudo cake shop in Takehara, Hiroshima.|
Powdery and slightly bitter chestnut fruit, when steamed, boiled or roasted, makes a naturally sweet and satisfying snack. The Japanese are very fond of this luscious nut, candying and blending it with sugars, beans and sweet potatoes to form frostings perfect for confections like the rum-soaked marron paquet (pictured above) and mont blanc (モンブラン), a mountain of whipped cream and/or cake topped with ropes of noodle-thin chestnut paste. How can anyone be melancholy in a season with so much amazing flavors available?
|Decadent soymilk and chestnut mont blanc served with coconut ice milk (Baby Face Planet's on Bell Road, Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture).|
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