Here in Japan we experience all four seasons, but sometimes the distinguishing characteristics of each overlap with the others or can simply be very different to what I grew up with in the States. In America, each season was marked by significant changes of weather and my surroundings, but here in Japan it isn’t quite like that. No matter the time of year, there are always plants in bloom, and farmers are planting and harvesting certain crops. Also, with only trace amounts of snow coming down where I live, the winter can seem like nothing more than a long, harsh fall.
Most farmers in Japan plant and harvest rice just once a year, and to me this has become the greatest way to gauge the season. Living in a rural area makes these changes especially palpable. Something about rice so ingrained as a part of the continent in which I live conjures up the same excitement in my mind as would summer’s rising temperatures. Just as the mountains are to me now, I never tire of seeing rice in the fields when commuting to work or glancing out my patio door.
Freshly planted last weekend. This is just behind my apartment.
The opposite can of course be said about the harvest season in September and October. While culturally it marks an equally interesting time and also means plenty of fresh rice (you can taste the difference), it dumps on me the sense of my summer fun being reaped down to the fruitless chaff. All that then lies ahead is the slow descent into a relentlessly cold house and a subdued spirit of adventure. I might see a soulless replacement like onions in a handful of the fields, but the fallow state in which most are left is quite befitting of the season.
It seems impossible to spell out adequately, but the point of all this is that my internal calendar seems to have shifted its orbit to two seasons from four. Of course I still recognize the flow of one season to the next, but its gotten to be that winter feels more like ‘halfway to planting’.