On 15th January, Kiku found that the seasonal marker for the next five days had the title “the kiji calls” (雉始雊/きじはじめてなく).
He asked Mama Kōjin what a kiji might be. “A kiji is a male green pheasant – they used to be on the 10,000 yen note, because it is in fact Japan’s national bird” she told him. “They can startle you because they don’t run away until you get close to them and have a tendency to burst from the undergrowth making a terrible racket!” the sound of a pheasant is described in Japanese onomatopoeia as kenkenken! (ケンケンケン)
Kiku thought for a moment, and recalled something he had overheard someone saying. “I heard an old lady telling someone that “the pheasant would not be shot if it did not cry”. “Ah yes,” said Mama Kōjin, “that is an old Japanese saying – it is a polite way of saying there is no-one to blame but yourself, when something bad has happened to you.” [きじも なかずば うたれまい/ kiji mo nakazuba utarenai]
“And some people also think that if you hear pheasants crying out from all directions that there are earthquake tremors, even if you can’t immediately feel them’.
Kiku would be listening keenly for these birds in the future…