April 20, 2017 Multi-color palette

 

In old days, people enjoyed not only flowers, but also early morning colors that change from moment to moment.

Spring time, the best is dawn.

Mountain ridge, gradually shining in white,

Sunlight, low lying clouds in purple color.

春は、あけぼの。やうやう白くなりゆく山きは 少し明りて紫だちたる雲の細くたなびきたる。

The Pillow Book (枕草子) by Seishonagon, 11th century

People enjoyed various colors of new leaves springing out from different trees.

Among trees without flowers, I love Maple trees, Katsura, and white Pine.

Among Maple trees, I prefer smaller ones, new leaves with red edge, pointing to the same direction. Looks so fragile, like sere insects.

花の木ならぬはかへで、桂、五葉

楓の木のささやかなるに、萌え出でたる葉末(はずえ)の赤みて、同じ方に広ごりたる葉のさま、花もいとものはかなげに、虫などの枯れたるに似て、をかし

–The Pillow Book (枕草子), by Seishonagon, 11th century

Now our garden is full of green colors. Yes, this is the garden after Easter. New leaves sprang out here and there, anywhere from unexpected space.

 

 

April 13, 2017 Spring morning

 

It’s hard to wake up in spring. You are no more awaken by the cold temperature of the winter. You prefer staying long in your warm futon, listening to lovely bird songs…

Spring, asleep, knows no dawn,

Here and there, trilling bird songs,

Night’s pitter-patter of winds and rains,

How many flower petals have fallen?

– 春暁 or Spring Dawn, Mèng Hàorán, Chinese poet, 7th to 8th century

Birds are coming to stay in flowering trees. Japanese nightingales are singing from plum and cherry trees. “Ho- Hokekkyo! ”–this is how we hear nightingales singing songs in Japan. We hear them here and there, but hard to get their pictures

Our garden is now full of flowering trees and flowers. Tulips blossoms,too.

Spring night,

Dreaming on your arm,

Will be annoying if people talk about us

 春の夜の

夢はかりなる手枕に

かひなくたゝむ名こそをしけれ

– 百人一首 or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 67 by Suo-no-Naishi, 11th century

 

April 8, 2017 Cherry blossoms falling in the wind

Cherry blossoms (桜 or Sakura) bloom only for one week. They full bloom then fall gracefully in a very short period of time.  Such transient beauty became the symbol of how soldiers should act at critical moment during the World War II.

You and I are cherry blossoms of the same class,

Blooming in the campus of the same military school,

Once blooming, let’s be decisive to fall,

Gracefully, for the Country

同期の桜  or Cherry blossoms of the same class, a military song during the World War II

But in older days, people enjoyed Cherry blossoms much more peacefully. Its transient nature was interpreted differently.

Some projected uneasy feelings on them,

In this calm and peaceful spring sun light,

Cherry blossoms scatter, like my restless thoughts 

百人一首 or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 33 by Ki-no-Tomonori, 9th century

while others projected one’s passing youth on them.

Cherry blossoms have lost their glamour in vain,

During long rain, like me, wondering around for love 

百人一首  or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 9 by Ono-no-Komachi,circa 9th century 

Cherry blossoms are also beautiful in mountains, blended with pale green color of young trees (山桜 or Yamazakura).

Oh, wild cherry blossoms, 

Please have sympathy for me, as I have for you,

No one else knows me, other than you,

Deep in the mountains

百人一首 or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 66 by Gyoson, Buddhist monk, 11~12th century)

 

April 1, 2017 Local fisherman’s wharf

 

Every Sunday morning, fisherman’s wharf of Isumi-city is open to the public. A short drive of 20 minutes from our old house leads to the place.

Bright and clear blue sky.  Nice breeze from the sea. A fisherman’s boat enters into the harbor.

Both local people and those coming from metropolitan area gather to buy fresh fish and local products.

 

Fishermen are selling fish and seafood caught before dawn.

   

Dried fish too.  During winter, local people dry fish under the clear weather and cool wind.

Some sell cactus and greenhouse grown plants.

After visiting the wharf, it’s lunch time!  You can enjoy Ramen with local fish soup, grilled octopus, charcoal-grilled local clams, etc., in an open-air eating place under the winter sky of Isumi-city.

 

March 26, 2017 Newcomers in the garden

 

Since we bought the old house  a year ago, we have planted several young plants, expecting them to grow and make flowers, fruits and nuts someday.

 Unfortunately, none of them grew as fast as beans of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. We must wait, for years for some of them.

3 years for Peach and Chestnut, 8 years for Persimmon (=Kaki)

      –Old Japanese proverb (Edo period, the 17th-19th century)  

The first nursery tree we planted was Chestnut. 

We hope to harvest our first chestnuts in one to two years.

We also planted blueberries. As for blueberries, we can expect to get fruits from the first year, meaning by this coming autumn.

We planted a young fig tree, too. As for fig, we can also get fruits by the first year.

Not just for eating but also for nice smell, we planted a fragrant young orange-colored olive in the backyard of the garden.

Finally, we built a big trellis for wistaria, expecting to see flowers next year. The two young trees of wistaria are expected to hang down two meter-long flowers !

Wisteria flowers have been appreciated by nobilities since old days.

I really adore Wisteria flowers with long, deep colored clusters

       –The Pillow Book (The Pillow Book or 枕草子, by Sei Shonagon, the 11th century)

Among our old friends of the garden, winter daphne or “Daphne Odora” with white and red colored flowers are fully blooming, giving off sweet fragrance throughout the garden.

Under the shade of trees, Narcissus is blooming solitarily, away from the sunny side of the garden.

 

March 21, 2017 Rice field wakes up

 

Rice was introduced in our country 3,000 years ago from China. Since then, rice field has always been a typical landscape. The salaries of lower grade Samurais were paid by the amount of rice. Higher grade Samurais received his fief by the size of rice field.

People’s happiness was measured by the amount of crops, especially rice, held in their house.

Watching from upper floor of my palace, 

Columns of smoke coming out from people’s rice cooking oven

新古今和歌集、New Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry, by Emperor Nintoku, the 5th century

Farmers turn over the rice field abandoned during winter, and wait for young rice plants to grow.

Rice field on the back of our old house is also turned over.

Farmers cultivates young rice plants inside greenhouses.

Our village reanimates as tractors turns over rice field. Yes, farmers and tractors also wake up from long winter sleep.

Rape blossoms are thriving along the rice field, announcing the coming spring.

Coming out to spring meadows

to pick herbs for you, 

Spring snow falls on my kimono sleeve

百人一首 or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 15 by Emperor Kouko, the 8th century

March 11, 2017 Azalea of Manki Castle

 

Our old house is facing a road leading to the hill where an old castle use to be.  The castle has had a name of Manki Castle.  It was built in around 14-15th century by a samurai clan called Toki. The rule of Toki clan in the region was overthrown in the 16th century and the castle was eventually demolished. During the rein of Toki clan, our small village, Rakumachi, with around 100 houses, is said to have served as an entertainment district where joyful shops, bars and restaurants  were lining up in order for those living in the castle to enjoy.

The road first leads us to the Isumi river.

Then, the hill shows up. It was where Manki castle used to be. Today, we only have a viewing platform replicating the castle on top of the hill.

The road to the castle is narrow and steep.

We found many Azalea trees, that the branches are woven into a tunnel, just wide enough for a person to walk through. Weird beauty, isn’t it?

Azalea tunnel leads us to the viewing platform, from which we have magnificent view of Rakumachi village and other villages in the midst of rice field. We can also see the Pacific Ocean some 10 km ahead.

This is Rakumachi village. Our old house should show a wide red roof, but it is hidden by trees just behind the red bridge on the Isumi river (at the left-centre of the picture.

 

March 4, 2017 Spring coming out

 

In early March, it is still cold in our country. But the Nature captures longer daylight and prepares for the coming Spring.

 Edible flower buds of Fuki (Petasites) is among first blessings of the Nature. Unfortunately, we missed the right timing! The buds have already opened into flowers. We should have picked from the garden earlier to enjoy Tempura. Flowers are too bitter to eat.

Canola flower buds are now ready to be eaten. We boil, and then eat with soya-based sauce.

Edible buds or plants have been enjoyed from the old days.

This time, from tomorrow,

To take edible young plants of spring,

I stretch codes in the field,

Snows is falling down,

Yesterday, and today

Manyo-shu (万葉集, 8th century., Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, Poet: Yamabe no Akahito)

Trees are budding here and there. Cherry trees, Daphne…

Tulips are coming out too.

 

Feb 25, 2017 Doma–entrance hall where domestic animals used to live

 

Old Japanese house in rural area has had a wide entrance hall called “Doma (土間)”, where domestic animals such as horses or cows once used to live.  Domestic animals were a sort of family members, because those have been served to cultivate field and transport people. Doma  also served as a place for threshing crops and make straw crafts such as ropes (nawa) and mats(goza). In short, Doma has been a space designed as an indoor workplace.

We don’t think that our house’s Doma really served to keep animals, but it surely served as a workplace.  Still today, we are happy to have that Doma to cut timbers and assemble them for making wisteria trellis (Fujidana or 藤棚).

 

 

Doma literally means “room with earthen floor”.  The floor is earthy but hard and flat, made by clay added with lime and salt.

 

 

Doma has two windows with no glass, that in order for smoke to go out of the house as smoothly as possible (the notion of chimney has been non-existent in old Japan). In old days, people have also been using Doma as kitchen, to cook rice and boil water with fire.

The entrance door is very wide.

But the entrance can also be made very small in order to prevent strangers to penetrate.

 

 

Feb 19, 2017 Mon: entrance gate for Samurai

The main gate of the old house, or Mon (門),  has been designed for welcoming higher ranked guests such as samurais and monks. The main gate leads directly to the room with Tokonoma, or Zashiki.

The family members or casual visitors should have been using other entrances to enter into the house.  Could be Doma, Engawa, or any openings to the house (the house has openings in every direction).

The main gate Mon carries a decorative roof with the ridge-end furnished with a tile ornament, designed to protect the house against evils. Among many types of Mon, ours  is called “Mune-Mon”, because the “Mon” carries a roof (Mune).

 

We are planning to build a wisteria trellis along the wall leading to the Mon.