After the monsoon rains the humidity and heat soars, the cicadas shrill during the day while the frogs chorus through the night. Dragonflies dart through the rice fields which have grown tall and green.
Summer evenings are filled with festivals: spectacular fireworks or thousands of lanterns floating down the river. Here in Kanbayashi shrines and temples hold smaller festivals with local food and taiko drumming. Children don their yukatta, summer kimono, and light fireworks.
The 7th day of the 7th month is Tanabata in Japan. The one night in the year that the two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshsi, separated by the milky way are permitted to meet. People mark the day by writing wishes on colourful paper, tanzaku. When in Japan, my two daughters spent the days leading up to Tanabata making paper decorations and writing wishes to hang on bamboo.
On that night we would have star themed meals, star carrots in chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi) or last year the farm shop in Ayabe Tokusankan was selling star and heart shaped cucumbers! We created a huge salad with a grated carrot milky way, and lots of cucumber stars.
This year being back in the UK, I didn’t have the usual reminder of hanging tanzaku leading up to the entrance of the kindergarten. It was my daughter who happen to ask the day before “wasn’t Tanabata coming up soon?”.
We are still not back in our house nor unpacked our belongings so we had a make-do celebration that evening. When she came home from school we wrote down our wishes and she strung them up on a nearby tree. We had chirashi-zushi for supper, unfortunately without any stars or hearts, but still a Japanese meal to mark the day.
The beginning of June is magical with (the difficult to catch on camera) fireflies twinkling during the warm nights. Sansho pods and ume plums are ready for pickling. Then tsuyu or the rainy season begins, and the rice fields turn a lush green.