Whilst consulting the seasonal almanac during October, Kiku was very pleased to see that he recognised two of the three kanji in the ‘ko’, or five-day seasonal period from 13th October, the one for ‘chrysanthemum’ (菊) and the one for ‘flower’ (花). The first kanji he learnt even before travelling to Japan was the character for chrysanthemum, taught to him by his mother when he was very small. She told him that she gave him the name for the small white patch of fur on his back near his tail resembling the flower, but he has never known why she chose the Japanese word, and this was part of the reason he felt he should come to Japan.
The ‘ko’ for this period of the year reads:
菊花開 (きくのはなひらく/ kiku no hana hiraku), which means that chrysanthemum flowers open or bloom.
Called ‘kiku’ in Japan, a stylised version of the flower is the crest of the Japanese Imperial family, and the symbol is also found on Japanese passports, and the 50-yen coin. The flower originally came from China in the 8th century as a medicinal plant and symbolises longevity and rejuvenation.
It is a symbol of the autumnal season, and has been bred into many wild and wonderful shapes, some of which can be seen in special displays around Tokyo, including:
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, from 20th October to 15th November 2015
Yasukuni Shrine, from October 16th to November 5th
Meiji Jingu Shrine, from October 25th to November 23rd
Hibiya Park, from November 1st to 23rd (the Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition)
Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival at Yushima Tenjin Shrine from November 1st to 23rd – around 2000 chrysanthemums in special dome shaped displays and tray landscapes, as well as dolls made from the flowers.
Kiku has been working on translating an old Japanese seasonal almanac given to him by Boss Panda. Originally from China, the recordings were changed long ago to more accurately reflect the 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’. Each sekki is also divided 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).