Four Seasons of the Childhood
"So fragrant, and all kinds of azaleas blooming so whole country seem to burn." (Spring)
The Spring of Northern Japan very late. On first April the snow still in shade ground, see light snow some times. The Spring’s first flower are golden flower of a shrub “mansaku” - means “full crop.” Small clustered yellow flower, very pretty, contrasting white snow still in underbrush and next came “fukage” so means “wealth and long life.” Small herb, golden flower, and then a purple flower of small lily “katakuri.” It’s bulb produce finest starch for cooking and medicine. And sunny slope, the wild green onions and “Fuki” butter bar petasites “hag rhubarb” (?) raise their head. The wild green onions are good to eat, but Fukio flower bud are prized by old people for flavor, so we gathered it, scrated (?) part little snow to please our grandfathers.
About 10th April the white plum (ume) and a week later wild cherries blooming out, and after little all of the oak family trees spread young leaves. So fragrant, and all kinds of azaleas blooming so whole country seem to burn. It was very pleasant to wait under flower laden tree to watch and play and catch fish.
In later spring we claim [climb] to O-Hashi Mori or Yomagiyama, highest peak around and see from top of mountain. Distant the river Kitakami running silvery and golden flower of the psyllum green field of the rice and the grain and gathered edible wild plants. The Udo some fern and the wisteria hanging down from fragrant oak tree by riverside or creek bank and whole countryside decorate with all sort of flowers. And the air was warm and steamy. Made people dreaming and forget everything go to outside….
Later part of Spring we children used to go “Tubo hata” (?) “pot field” place pot like little valley, the river let running eastside boader and many fishes swarm in shallow of the river to lay eggs we made in shallow, two parallel bank about 4 feet wide. Wash rock and stone clean and watch the fish came, and when the fishes in we shut off top and bottom with bundle and net and caught all the fishes in.
Our childhood Summer days mostly played in the river flowing behind our house. The river mostly clean, not too deep nor too shallow, just good for we children. Swimming and catching fish or just play. All children get sunburned black. When weather get cool and tall grass called Chigaya “miscanthas” flower our pink, the grown ups told us, if children stay in the water after red flower of miscanthas show, surely get “red belly” a “fever” so we all quit the river. Later part of the summer came the time of urabon in August, in Buddhist decoration time of Festival for deceased. We climb the hills near by get wild flowers, purple Kikyo, golden Ominaishi, pink Karikaya, and Hagi’s purple flower like peas, and we enjoy that.
Autumn or Fall
There is a proverb in our part of country, “Than go visit a poor aunt rather go to mountain in Fall.”
The Fall of our mountain really bountiful, stone house of mother earth , and very pleasant time I remember. Our hamlet surrounded by wooded hills and some part was open except here and there a few small pine grow. Youngest children first go to open wild field and gathered some mushroom, and older boys get into wooded forest get better mushrooms. And there many wild chestnut tree all over mountain and gather some nut, and the persimmon trees nearly all of the field corner some of ripe and sweet. And by little creeks there are akebi hanging from tree branch, purple and sweetest of all fruits. There many varieties of wild mushroom, but Matsutake (pine mushroom), Kotake (fragrant mushroom) mostly prized. The day of Kannons Festival I alone walk through a pine and oak forest, find a bunch of pine mushroom. Even now I can not forget, and one day I with my young brother, came across a school of favored Kotake, came home get biggest basket for.
Our part of country winter was cold and long, from last part of November till to March, snow covers the ground. Some time snow storm piled up 5 to 6 feet of snow on road, stop traffic. Could not go to school even. But cold day, we played mostly outside except stormy or extremely cold. Sleigh riding, ice skating, and other kind like catching fish in river, breaking ice in some cove of river caught all fish gathered there. Story day stay inside house, played game, read books, our snack was the dry persimmon, dried chestnut, and toasted soybeans and other. Sweet potatoes are imported from warmer country and a novelty to us, we enjoy them when older folds come back from town bringing a few steamed sweet potatoes for us.
In this year it was very hard year, too. I try to stay in school without get any help from my home, because in the home, the things not going right, and all of the family in hardship. So I could not buy any textbook or other necessary books. I copied all books when a friend not used or in sleep, and finally I came to so hard, cannot buy even my pens, and writing paper, sometime can’t buy kerosene oil, about 2 yen (1penny) worth of oil, enough for a nights burning for study. So I had stand front of the toilet light to read.
words by Zenkichi Kikuchi, 1880 - 1965
read in 日本語