Although the rainy season was coming to an end in Tokyo, Kiku still managed to get caught out by a rain shower when out walking on the 7th July, and on returning to the Bamboo Bathhouse, he shook his fur on the front step and then went into one of the sentos* relaxation rooms, which was equipped with an old style massage chair and a large old ‘Fuji’ hairdryer.
One of the little fox’s favourite things to do was to sit on the hairdryer chair, bring down the large dome over his head, put his 50 yen into the slot on the arm of the chair and press the little switch to get his ears warm and dry…
Boss Panda walked into the room as Kiku’s ears were trembling in the hot air and laughed.
“You are proving today’s seasonal marker!’ he exclaimed, and left the room again, chuckling.
Kiku was puzzled at this, as all the seasonal markers he had read about so far had been to do with nature and not with electrical appliances. When the dryer came to the end and he was warm and dry again, he climbed down from the chair and went to get the almanac to see what Boss Panda meant. He knew that today marked the start of the three ‘ko’ (seasonal markers) that fell within the sekki (seasonal group) called Shōsho [小暑], or ‘Minor Heat’ – the end of the rainy season and the first of the hot weather arriving. As he turned to the page in the almanac he suddenly got the joke that the old bear had been making – the seasonal marker for the next five days was ‘Hot Winds Arrive…’
It was true that the dryer blew very hot air!
That evening when he sat outside the bathhouse as the days rain evaporated, he noticed the warm air passing over, lifting some of the tanabata paper strips into the night air…
*Japanese public bathhouses are called ‘sento’.
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). 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).