First signs of Spring and a new perspective

Tokyo awoke this morning to a light sprinkling of snow. The sugar-coated trees and houses that provided the backdrop for this morning’s jog around the park reminded me that winter is yet to loosen its grip on us. And yet all around, signs of life are beginning to appear once more and it really won’t be that long before we are thinking about grabbing our spot in the park for the traditional Hanami – viewing of the cherry blossoms.

koineko Your humble scribe was feeling in a particularly poetic mode this morning due to having downloaded a wonderful app onto my tablet named “The 72 Seasons”.  Talk about the seasons of the year, and most people think of the four main ones, Spring, Summer, etc. I had always thought of them as pretty much universal – and in fact  Japan is inordinately proud of the distinctiveness of its four seasons. But as it turns out, the idea of the Four Seasons is a relatively new one. Japan, it appears, has no less than 72 seasons! Each one lasts only a few days and is denoted not by the passage of the moon or the stars across the heavens but by nature’s subtle changes and the responses elicited by living creatures. I find this an absolutely delightful idea. The fantastic app I downloaded takes the reader on a richly rewarding journey through these microseasons, exploring each through the medium of nature, food, haiku poetry and imagery. The home page updates every five days or so with new content inspired by nature’s subtle shifts.

So this morning, I found myself contemplating a haiku by Nagata Koui. This seemingly indecipherable verse became a little bit clearer when I read that the phrase “Koineko” – literally “Lovecat” (with apologies to Robert Smith) refers to the early Spring cat mating season. So the line that this season’s amorous tom cat “will get his way”, to me at any rate, is an allegory for the power of nature to once again push life from the frozen land in anticipation of the coming spring warmth. Told you I was feeling poetic!

This time of year is particularly magical in Japan. Reading this, and seeing the first signs of life in the trees and hedgerows does uplift the spirit.