The heat of August is intense, except the wonderful first hour after daybreak. But kayabuki, the traditional thatched house comes into its own, remaining cool and dark under its dense, heavy roof.
Produce strung from bamboo poles hang from the kura to dry. School children play in the river and catch insects during their long summer break. It’s a slow, lazy month as it’s just too hot…
This completes my year of life and the seasons in Kanbayashi, north Kyoto Prefecture. Compiling these images each month has made me notice and experience more and has been a very special experience.
I really do miss this landscape.
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 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.
April has been a glorious month as winter finally transitioned fully into spring, with cherry blossom and other flowers blooming throughout. And green has returned to the mountains; as the blossom falls the new fresh spring leaves appear.
It is hard to believe it was still snowing at the beginning of the March. Spring has emerged as the month has unfolded with many kinds of blossom; beautiful hues of pink, yellow and white as contrast to the sandy hues and beiges of winter.
February has been a mix of bitter cold with hard frosts and more snow with mild weather. Hints of spring are appearing with trees budding and the first pink plum blossom.
The beginning of January was very mild, then the wind changed, the temperature dropped and the snow came. Japanese housing is not suited for the cold and life becomes a little more arduous. Yet, it is incredibly beautiful and finally it feels like winter.
We are experiencing dantou 暖冬 (だんとう), a mild winter, the consequence of el nino elsewhere in the pacific region. The narcissi are blooming, kids are playing outside in t-shirts; it should be snowing by now. While we appreciate the mild temperature it doesn’t feel quite right, especially when putting out New Year decorations.
The nights are drawing in. The persimmon trees have dropped their leaves meaning it is time to harvest. The momiji (Japanese maple) have turned brilliant shades of red and yellow adding to the array of autumn colours.
October has been a month of sunny days with chilly nights that leave a heavy dew in the morning that is lit up as the sun streams through though the valleys. The leaves are starting to turn and persimmons are ripening on the trees. Rice straw is left to dry in bundles on bamboo poles or fences.
There are many festivals to give thanks and appreciation for the rice harvest. Local shrines hold mochi (dried rice balls) throwing events where locals scramble to catch mochi tossed by shrine maidens and priests, and come away with brimming bags full.