On the morning of 2nd September, Kiku and Miko-chan were enjoying their morning bowl of steaming white rice prepared by Mama Kōjin, and discussing the current micro season*, entitled ‘rice ripens’.
“Rice is a very high yielding crop compared to other cereals”, explained Mama Kōjin.
“Just one stalk can produce between one hundred and two hundred grains of rice, and this is the time when those grains are becoming full and heavy, weighing down the stalk into its familiar nodding head shape.”
“Just as it has been believed that Raijin, the Shinto god of thunder and lightning fertilises the rice, on the flip side, his brother Fujin the god of wind can cause havoc at harvest time. Japan is always affected by the Pacific Typhoon Season, which has a peak in August and September and has been known to destroy crops. Because of this we pray to ward off the winds and for a bounty crop”.
Kiku looked down at his rice bowl and imagined the grains as they had once been, swaying in the breeze and soaking up the sunshine. Mama Kōjin recited a haiku by Kobayashi Issa:
kamikaze ya hatake no inaho soyogu nari
rice heads in the field
*Micro Seasons – Sekkis, Kos and The Fox Almanac
Kiku has been working on translating an old Japanese seasonal almanac given to him by Boss Panda. Originally from China, the recordings within it were changed long ago to more accurately reflect the seasonal transitions in central Honshu, the main island of Japan, where Tokyo is located. Closely linked to agriculture, the system divides the solar year into 24 segments called ‘sekki’ and each of these has a concise title that gives a general indication of the season. Each sekki is divided further into three five-day segments called ‘ko’ (climates/ micro seasons). Each ko has an observation noted for the five days – a change in insect or plant behaviour for example, and Kiku is working his way through them, hoping that by following the little seasonal changes as remarked on in the almanac, he will come to have a better understanding of Japan, a country where seasonal foods and customs are still very familiar to many. He calls his own version the ‘fox almanac’ or in Japanese the ‘Kitsune no shichijuniko’ (Fox’s 72 climates).
**This translation of the Issa poem can be found in the archive of www.haikuguy.com/issa/
Kamikaze means literally ‘divine wind’ and was thought of as a protector of Japan in several historical events (including keeping Mongol fleets from landing on two separate occasions), only later being used to describe the suicide missions of pilots.