The first day of spring

Daffodils at Eiho-ji

Here in Japan it’s 春分の日 (Shunbun no hi), which means we get a day off work to enjoy the spring equinox (unless of course you’re hiding inside to avoid the pollen-saturated outdoors.)

Japan’s distinct seasons are a source of constant pleasure to me. Spring, in particular, comes as a welcome break after the long bleak icy winter. Up here in the mountains you can smell the earth waking up again. Japan’s exquisite panoply of flowers is only just beginning, with the apricot trees starting to flower. In a few weeks it’ll be the cherry blossoms, and the world will take on that unique energy that the sakura always infuse Japan with. Everything in stores will be pale pink; Starbucks will release their sakura steamer and everyone will try to spend at least a day beneath the blossoms. They’re so fleeting that the desire to see them, to walk beneath the pink clouds, becomes something urgent.

Japanese people ask often if we experience seasons in South Africa. Usually this causes me a certain amount of despair about Japanese geography education, but if we’re being quite honest, I couldn’t even begin to compare the two. They’re just different. South African winter is all dryness and woodsmoke and sheepskin slippers, and spring is merely an end to the cold, Easter eggs, rains and the beginning of a glorious six months of warmth. The seasons flow into each other, usually quite gently, and the weather is temperamental and inconsistent – four seasons in one day, as we say on the Highveld, is not a joke.

Here though, it feels like each season has a unique spirit. The change is so precipitous that having an official start-of-spring day doesn’t seem nearly as preposterous or arbitrary as it does in South Africa. All of that seasons-of-a-man’s-life stuff actually seems real here – all so fleeting that you feel urged by the very earth itself to take advantage of it. It’s a good way to live, I think.

So today is spring. Enjoy it! Here’s a video by Grant illustrating the sudden season changes, and also his monstrously awesome musical talent:



One thought on “The first day of spring

  1. Interesting and timely post. The seasons in my native land are identical to those in Japan, but I feel only once I came to the insular-but-uninsulated Japan that I truly experienced the raw coldness of winter, the relief from it that spring brings, the merciless heat of the summer, and the relief from it that autumn brings. I can now associate every month with a distinct feeling, I’ve become aware of which flowers bloom when, etc.

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