Nothing but a memory…

When I said that the “big snow” wouldn’t last I wasn’t kidding. This time yesterday I was watching as huge puffy flakes fell. All that’s left are patches of icy white crystals, puddles and soggy ground topped by a gray cloud covered sky.

But…. I’m satisfied. Now I can say that I’ve experienced all five seasons in Japan. No, not a typo-we have five distinct seasons in Kyushu-spring, summer, autumn, winter and the rainy season-tsuyu– right before the summer sets in.

Most people just talk about the four seasons though.

I hear it often from many people “we have four seasons here in Japan” as if it were the only place on earth with four seasons.

I can say with all honesty that I’ve never experienced the seasons as distinctly as I have here. I’ve blogged about this before-how each season in Japan seems so completely separate from the others. It is so much more than just the air temperature or the seasonal décor and clothing changes. Our home physically  changes according to the seasons. Shoji doors come off or are returned to their positions. Whole rooms are either closed off or opened up. Laundry poles go back to their stands outside. Our lifestyle completely changes every few months to sync with the earth’s rotation and the changing of the natural cycle.

Now I’ve experienced the winter in its totality. The “big snow” however brief- brought the winter season to me in its fullest. Kawara roof-tops went from slate gray to white. Icy breath in unheated rooms, the smell of kerosene and nabe (a popular winter’s meal). Extra vegetables stored in the spare tatami room which becomes almost a room-sized refrigerator because it’s so cold in there! The big warm cozy kotatsu blanket is hauled out of the futon closet and mikan (tangerines) are always present in a bowl on the kotatsu table. The bedroom is permeated with the scent of Japanese laundry soap. We wash at night and hang the fresh washing on poles in the bedroom to dry with the heater on overnight.

These have been “winter” to me these past five years. I can now add to that the memory of snow. It was snow that truly made it feel like winter and made the gray gloomy skies bearable.

Now, it is onward to spring. January is over this week. In February the momo (peach) blossoms will be the first to bring color back to my garden and the first to herald the spring, soon to be followed by the ume and sakura blossoms. As a matter of fact I peeked and I saw that there are already buds on the momo trees in the back garden.

This is the time of year when I begin to watch gardening videos on YouTube and plan my spring garden.

For some inspiration …for all the other gardeners out there….I’ve posted a video from my favorite gardening show-BBC’s Gardener’s World. Carol Klein had a wonderful episode called Life in a Cottage Garden that took you through all four seasons of her cottage garden in Devon but, sadly, it appears to have been removed from YouTube.

At any rate-I hope this video inspires you and gets you excited for the planting season to come! There may be gloomy gray hanging over my rooftop now but I can sense spring beginning to awaken the earth.

5 thoughts on “Nothing but a memory…

  1. Greetings-

    Pardon the formatting,but I can’t overcome yours.

    You wrote: “I hear it often from many people “we have four seasons here in Japan” as if it were the only place on earth with four seasons.” I put this down to government action / propaganda leading up to the Olympics. The outside world knew little about Japan and could easily mix it with the hot countries like Thailand. I ascribe the same motivation to “Japanese intestines are longer than those of other races because we developed to eat rice, as opposed to those warlike people who were designed to eat meat” when the wartime reality was that there was no meat in the country. In any case I have put that it the book that I am re-re-re-reading before sending it to another publisher with hopes…..

    Ian M


    1. Hi Ian,
      Actually, I’ve heard that phrase for as long as I’ve been married. Every time we came to Japan for a visit- for the past 17 years. I don’t think it’s due to the Olympics.
      This ” four seasons” always seemed to be part of the conversation when I met new people- especially when they learned we were living in Saipan a tropical island. I always wondered about why it was always stated as if it were something unique. Korea has four seasons. So does China. Anyhow- it’s just sort of one of those things about life here that I find interesting. I was not trying to be sarcastic when I wrote that- I was actually stating something that I’ve experienced for many years. The ” for seasons” comment is most always stated in such a way to express ” uniqueness” as if- only Japan has four seasons. I’ve always found that odd. I hope that clears things up. Sometimes I guess I don’t always go very deeply into the thoughts and ideas behind what I mean when I write something. Sorry about that. My blog is more of a personal memoir … Kind of an online diary of my personal thoughts and feelings- that’s the approach I take when I write so sometimes I leave things out…


    2. I think Japanese people discuss the four seasons because they really FEEL the four season intensely. Traditionally they are in tune with nature. Little artificial heating, no air con. A closeness with the seasons. Whereas in America the closeness is more with religious holidays, I think. From Christmas to Easter and everything in between.


      1. I think you are on to something! Thinking about it further, nature and the seasonal changes seem to be more intertwined in our everyday lives here. At least here in the countryside. From gardening to the way our house changes… And everything in between.

        I’m not criticizing the ” four seasons” thing- it was always a curiosity to me as to why it was emphasized so much… But what you wrote makes sense and it opened the door for me to think differently. Being a total nature lover this topic is super interesting to me.


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