Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Field Notes--Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloweeeeeeen.............

Come fall, these spiders are everywhere.  Between trees, power lines, fenceposts, they appear suddenly in September.  Seriously, you can't walk between any two things without getting a face full of spiderweb.  The females are the big ones.  Below you can see both the gigantic female and the rather puny-looking male:
Isn't she spectacular!  Awesome Halloween colors--black, toxic yellow, and blood red.
She doesn't look all that small in this shot (taken 09/17), but wait a few more weeks...

This particular day was halfway between misting and raining.  It had stopped by the time I left school to walk home.  The sun, halfheartedly breaking through the clouds, burned off the mist,  As I walked along a tall row of bushes flanking the road, every spider I saw was busy repairing her rain-damaged web.  See:

Her back has  neon yellow stripes and the red spot on her abdomen gets bigger and redder as she eats... 
and grows... sure to click on all these photos, so's to see them as large as possible:))

Yes, I was standing with my face about three inches away--these spiders are, as I said, everywhere, including stretched across the front of a row of bushes.  At eye level.

Look closely--you can see her eyes, too. (not that closely, though--my camera doesn't have *that* much zoom).

Jorougumo ( Nephila Clavata)--Binding Lady
a member of the Golden Orb-Web spider group

MushiNavi has a bunch of show-stopping (or heart-stopping as the case may be) shots of Jorougumo.  According to my mom friends, they aren't poisonous even though they look like they ought to be.  They made me nervous the first few times I saw them.  Now that I'm more or less used to them, I think they are spectacularly beautiful spiders. In fact, I've been watching them so much that I think I'm not scared of spiders anymore.  Watching spiders has become as interesting as watching birds--I get all excited now when I see a new one I need to look up.  My daughter and I found four completely different, all very beautiful, spiders that day walking along the hedge across from the school.  Since this post is getting long, I'll put them up later (she said, much to her sister's consternation...:)). 

See--look, Daddy. You don't have to come kill spiders for me anymore.  I can pick them up and put them back outside all by myself!   Here's the biggest one I found today (10/29):

I wonder if that swollen abdomen means she's pregnant?

Riding my bike home after walking the kids to school, I counted 42 Jorougumo webs before I gave up counting--and I wasn't even halfway home!  Caught one having breakfast:

Somehow she just doesn't seem quite as...friendly as Charlotte...

According to Japanese folklore, Jorougumo ( whose name written with a different set of kanji can mean "Whore Spider") is a shape-shifter, like Kitsune (Fox) and Tanuki (Raccoon Dog).  In the Tonoigusa, an Edo period collection of stories, Jorougumo changes into a beautiful woman and asks a samurai to marry her.  In other stories, she traps a man with her silk and eats him--perhaps a reference to the fact that the females of this family usually eat their mates (kowai!)  In the photo below, look carefully and you can see the golden color of the web silk that gives this family of spiders its name.  The related species in the U.S. is Nephila Clavipes, but only in the south (which explains why I, being from Indiana, had never seen one of these before).
...nom, nom, nom ...

The little Buddhist temple up the road has a cemetery in back that abuts the mountain.  The Jourogumo back there were simply enormous.  I had to walk slowly to avoid walking through webs.

In the course of observing spiders far more closely than I have ever done, I realized with a start that a spider's web is not it's home.  Well--it is, and it isn't.   It's her shopping cart. It's how she eats.  An entomologist may well disagree with that notion, but I think it's apt.  If you think about it, a spider hanging head down in the middle of her web is extremely vulnerable--to predation, to accidents, to the elements.  A house is a shelter--it's supposed to protect  from those dangers.  In the video above, the spider fled to a corner of her web when she was startled by a passing car.  Had something touched her web, she'd have climbed one of her anchor threads and hidden in the bush. At the temple, one enterprising jorougumo had anchored her web in a corner of the temple itself, relying, I suppose, on the protection of the Buddha to keep her from harm and fill her web with food.  As I watched, a grasshopper blundered into her web--a feast!  And I discovered how the males get a bite to eat--quietly, stealthily, down from a corner of the web, up and over his busy mate's abdomen, to reach the struggling grasshopper, et viola!  3 ji oyatsu--a 3 o'clock snack...

Just mentioning the elements reminds me that a typhoon is coming this weekend.  Oh no!  All those webs will be ripped apart in the wind--especially webs strung between trees or power lines.  I wonder where they hide during a storm?  In knotholes?   Under leaves?  In the ground?  I could look it up, I suppose, but I'm going to see if I can find out for myself.

This just in!  As pasted from Wiki:
Researchers, lead by Masao Nakagaki, at Shinshu University, Japan have succeeded in creating a silk thread that is stronger, softer and more durable than conventional silk by injecting silkworm eggs with genes of the spider. The silkworms that hatch weave cocoons containing 10% spider protein. The dragline silk is said to have many uses, such as: bulletproof vests, sutures after an operation, tennis rackets, fishing line, and nets. A Japanese manufacturer named Okamoto has begun developing commercial applications for the spider silk, and plans to release extra-thin, durable spider socks by year 2010.
 Spider socks?!!  Must. Have. Now.  I totally need spider-silk socks to go with my magnetic sensory field bat belt...

Mata asobou, ne!
p.s.--I got so many mosquito bites taking these pictures, you just have no idea!
p.p.s.--I managed to not fall off my bike.  But that's because I was walking, although I nearly fell into a cistern...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aka Tombo

 Japan is all about the round of the seasons--every season has its icons, without which it just wouldn't be fall! Or Spring.  Or Summer.  The red dragonfly, along with pampas grass and Rabbits in the Moon , is as much a part of fall in Japan as football is for Americans. 

 Fall means Kaki (persimmons) turning green, then orange, then vermilion.  Kaki are everywhere--in gardens, along the road, in the supermarket (with seeds and without).  They are cut up and peeled and eaten as is.  In Indiana, we were the only people I knew who ate persimmons, and that was only because Mrs. Brown had a tree in her yard.  My mom made the best persimmon pudding...

Koshi (right) with his school hat filled with persimmons from the nice man next door who has a tree.  If he leaves some on his tree this year, we'll have flocks of migrating birds.

Susukisaka umi hetomukai arukunari

The path
Of Japanese pampas grass
I walk to the sea

Miscanthus Sinensis--Japanese pampas(or plume) grass, the quintessential symbol of fall.

 ...sweet white dango for moon-viewing (one of them should be yellow for the harvest moon low in the sky).  Rabbit manju are optional, but I have kids, so they're not.

Long before the Japanese maples turn red (the header photo was taken in November), the red Higanbana (Equinox Flower)  set fields and roadsides aglow.

 But dearest to my heart are the red dragonflies.  I nearly always stop to watch one until lost to view.  The first time I ever saw one was in somebody's rice paddy.  He was brilliantly scarlet against the green of the rice stalks, although that picture exists only in my mind since I didn't have a camera at the time.  We watch for him every fall-- "Aka Tombo!"--  the children shout whenever they are sharp-eyed enough to spot him. I saw him the other day on the way home from Kumon  in the late afternoon sun.  I managed not to fall off my bike.

           If you click on that photo, you can see all the veins in his wings... fine and clear with a single pane of red stained glass on the tip of each wing. 

And, this being Japan, there is a song about him called, naturally, Aka Tombo.  Here is a beautiful version sung by Kobato Kurumi:

In English:
Dragonflies as red as sunset
Back when I was young
In twilight skies, there on her back I'd ride
When the day was done

Mountain fields in late November
Long ago it seems
Mulberry trees and treasures we would gather
Was it only just a dream?

Just fifteen she went away one day
Married then so young
Like a sister lost, I loved and missed her
Letters never seemed to come

Dragonflies as red as sunset
Back when I was young
Now in my eyes, when I see dragonflies
Tears are always sure to come
(A beautiful translation by Dr. Dennis Paulson,
                 University of Puget Sound)

That song puts gentle fingers around the heartstrings and squeezes until the tears come out.  I'm not even Japanese, and it makes me feel nostalgic.  Happy dragonfly hunting!

Mata asobou, ne!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Manglish--Halloween Edition

Lately all the little girl's tshirts are sporting skulls--cute skulls, naturally, this being the Land of Kawaii (not the Land of the Rising Sun--they only said that to tick off the Chinese).  For some reason, though, these shirts seem to be available only in kids' sizes.  Believe me, if I find one in grown-up sizes, I'll have five:))

"The Life Is Various...



Look carefully at those skulls.  Notice the eye sockets?
Exactly.  Stars for eyes on the lower left skull.  An upside down heart for an eye on the lower right skull.  Only in Japan, I swear, would anyone put skulls on tshirts and cutsie them up with hearts and stars.  Whenever I see stuff like this, my reaction is always half charmed bemusement,  half face-palm. 

   Of course, I say that, even though I'd trade a finger to find that shirt in my size.                                                                                          
...And then there's this one.  "Let's Party For You...SKULL ROCK...Love Shock".  With hearts around, and again, the heart-shaped eye socket.  The hair bow, though, is what really gets me.  How the heck do you get a hair bow to stick to a skull?  With Mighty Putty?
Note:  Halloween is slowly taking hold in Japan, too.  Not actual door-to-door TrickorTreating, mind you, but parties and decorations and Halloween themed snacks and candy.  Why?  Because dressing up little kids is  CHO KAWAIIII (totally cute), of course:-))  Happy Halloween, all!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Field Notes--In Defiance

My husband doesn't like fall--it means the end of summer, the coming of the cold.  He hates the cold;  I hate the humidity.  It's a standing disagreement, albeit a friendly one.

I discovered today what I actually love about Fall.  It's cooler, yes, and the leaves turn colors.  And I never see a pile of leaves, whether gathered by hand or by wind, without wanting to scuff through it.  I love the smell of crushed leaves.  But I realized today that those things are not what makes Fall special.  It helps to think through what the other seasons are about.

Winter is about death, sleeping, waiting.  Plants decomposing into the ground; animals sleeping through the cold; breath hanging in the air, waiting.

Spring is rebirth, midwifed by the wind. Winter's offal, washed away by the rain, pushed aside by the living shoots it fed.  Shinryoku--  new green, spring green, the color that lightens the hillsides.  The cherry blossoms are Japan's Janus--presiding over graduations and entrance ceremonies.

Summer is life sounding forth in every register.  A stately, decadent symphony accompanied by cicadas, and snowmelt; storms and silence; crawling, twining, straining upward, bursting open.  A thousand colors, some at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum that only bees can see.

Fall is the season of Defiance.  Death and cold are coming, but Fall sees the harvest of grain, of fruit, of vegetables.

Grain-heavy rice plant heads droop, awaiting harvest.
The leaves are still yellow-green,

...but grainheads gleam golden in a stray sunbeam.
Pink cosmos, purple asters, yellow goldenrod grow strong and tall, and the Asian Comma can't decide where to land.
 (Kitateha--Polygonia c-aureum, fall form)

Fall is when Mardi Gras ought to be held--the last jubilant dancing, feasting, drinking before lent.

 Akahoshigomadara (Red Ring Skirt, Hestina assimilis ) resting between flowers, just as if the cold were not coming.
(somebody got a great closeup at Maioka park in our area)

 An okra flower, which looks white in this photo, but is really a pale, creamy yellow with a deep burgundy red center.
 The fall eggplants are still blooming, growing, hanging pendulously beneath the wide leaves that shade them from the sun.

 Summer plants,summer colors mingle with new plants thrown up in a final frenzy of autumnal confetti--ineffably blue summer morning glories and brilliant pink fall cosmos.

 The color morning glories ought to be, if they can manage it...


Still, in spite of the tumultuous tangle of vegetables and vines...

...of flowers and grasses attended by various representatives of Lepidoptera...

(Kitateha-- the Asian Comma-- accompanied by BeniShijimi, Lycaena phlaeas--Small Copper-- in a diplomatic meeting concerning the health of field grasses...)

Alight, Mesugurohyoumon gleams chrome.  Only the female looks like an old photograph;  the male is burnished copper and dark sepia (Damora Sagana).'s cloudy, and the wind occasionally reminds me I ought to have brought a jacket.

 A lizard glances up... the break in the clouds.

 When I go walking I never know what I'll find--always something,though,  never nothing.  A window in the roadside foliage reveals a field full of pink and white cosmos.  This is the sort of thing I live for.  Cosmos, in spite of the fact that it is a fall flower, is my adopted Birthday flower because somebody had the temerity to appoint Gladiolas for August.  Gladiolas!  Never planted right, always out at elbows-- just who exactly is in charge of birthday flowers, please?  I'd like a word.  In advance of speaking to management about it, I've chosen Cosmos for August.  In Defiance.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Question Regarding Miyazaki

Thanks to KK over at BABS, I now have Miyazaki on the brain.  In the US I think most everybody knows "Spirited Away", and some who really loved that film (like KK and my sis) went out and watched all the Studio Ghibli movies they could get a hold of.  But before starting down the slippery slope of Miyazaki geekiness, and telling you every little thing I love about Tonari no Totoro, I'd like to put out a question first.

As it happens, I have never watched any of these films in English.  I watch them with my kids, so of course we watch them in Japanese.  What I'm wondering about, for those who have only watched the English version, or who watched the subtitled version without knowing Japanese, is this:  Did you get how Chihiro's name was changed from Chihiro to Sen?  Watch the trailer below, because it briefly shows that scene. Then, if you don't mind, please let me know in the comments how you understood it.  Thanks!  First time commenters welcome!  I'm just curious whether Non-Japanese-speaking audiences understood that scene the way Japanese-speaking audiences did.  Thanks to all who indulge my curiosity and take a moment to reply!

After I get some comments, I'll update this post and tell you how that scene is understood in Japanese:))

First--thanks to all who responded:))  And congratulations to Falen--you pretty much got how Chihiro came to be called Sen.  Yes, it's to do with the Kanji of her name--and Ezmirelda, even though you "only" know 20 Kanji, you probably know this one:  千  (hope everybody's PCs can read that).  Yubaba takes only 3 of the 4 Kanji that make up Chihiro's name--the two of her last name and the second of her first name.  She leaves on the page the first Kanji of her first name, the "chi" part.  Her names translates (loosely) as "a thousand murmurs".  The Kanji I put up there is read "chi" in the Japanese reading and in names.  On it's own, it's read as "Sen", which is the Chinese reading, and it's the number 1000.  Yubaba has simply switched from the Japanese to the Chinese reading of the character, so the new name "Sen" isn't arbitrary.  It's a great choice of name for her character, though, since that Kanji is a number--it's as though she's been given a number rather than a name, and it increases the sense that she is being imprisoned.  I also get the feeling (although I've never heard Miyazaki say this, so maybe it's just my idea) that it's an oblique reference to the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, since Chihiro offers herself to Yubaba as a worker in order to *not* be turned into a pig and to give herself time to figure out how to escape the twilight world.  And just as I wrote the word "twilight", I realize that Miyazaki has depicted the Goetterdaemerung--the Twilight of the Gods.  

Thanks again to those who responded !  And I'm pleased as punch to know that most of my commenters are as big a Miyazaki fan as I am:))

And to anybody reading this who has never seen Spirited Away ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"), run don't walk!  Put it in the Netflix cue, get it from Blockbuster, nick it from your neighbor, but don't go another minute without seeing this film.  They had the presence of mind in Berlin to award this film Best Picture (not Best Animated Picture, note).

Did you see that?  Did you see how he drew the children scrubbing the wooden floors, running up and down with rags?  He didn't make that up--that's exactly how wooden flooring is cleaned.  Japanese elementary kids do it like that every day at school--my kids, too.  That's how he brings his wild flights of fancy to life--they are grounded in concrete reality.  Sorry--geek rant over.  Enjoy!:))

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Manglish--The Notebook Edition

Today's Manglish was all found on notebooks.  All of which I purchased for the sole purpose of owning such delightfully silly prose, and having it in convenient notebook form to carry around and snicker over at will.  One must have something thrilling to read on the train, after all:))

"Time to look at beautiful jewel,
      it is a terrible, luxurious time."

I'd love to know why somebody thought the word "terrible"
belongs in there....

"a look of fearless determination


Those phrases are, of course, perfectly sensible.  Just not necessarily
on the cover of a very small ring notebook.  I chose to use this one to
keep my food diary in, assuming that if I intend to take off the pounds
I put on at my parent's over the summer, I would need to be...

And finally, simple and sweet, "This is a durable and simple cover notebook.  This notebook is usable in various uses."  Usable in various uses... and yet you don't dare give them a Thesaurus:))

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Field Notes--out of the Cracks

I admit to being fascinated by plants of any kind that grow up out of cracks in concrete or asphalt.  Years ago my mom pointed out a funny photo in the Indy Star to my dad--of a corn plant (already 5 feet tall or so), with an ear of corn no less, growing up out of a crack in the concrete in the median of US 31.  The photo was captioned "Purdue Ag Department Experiment".  We all thought it was hilarious--and it had the effect of making me notice for ever after *anything* growing up out of a crack. 

Moss is lovely:

...growing out of the crack between the street and a damp stone wall.  I dearly love moss--I nearly always touch it if I find some.'s even nicer if you get down on your hands and knees and have a closer look (this must be why my pants always have a hole in the knee).  See?  It looks like a succulent, doesn't it?  Click on that photo, won't you, so you can see it properly.  Up close you wonder, is that how moss flowers?  Or is something else growing up from beneath the moss?

Then there are those small, flat-growing plants that everybody just walks right over without noticing:

...coming right up between the asphalt of the sidewalk and the concrete block top of the river wall.  I honestly admire plants like this--they just exude that "never-say-die" spirit, don't they:))  This is the sort of plant that gardeners *hate* pulling from out between their bricked walkways.  It has strong roots--it doesn't pull up easily. 

Take a closer look--click on that photo, if need be.  See those wee flowers?  Up close, it's rather attractive, no?  It's Kohakobe, or stellaria media.  Nearly invisible stars of flowers that we walk over every day.  It's growth habit ensures the plant won't be fatally damaged, although I don't think it *enjoys* being trod upon.  There's also a close relative of this one called, appropriately enough, stellaria neglecta.

But, hands down, my best find recently was this gigantic thing coming up between a wall and the sidewalk next to the Circle K across from the bus center:

...*exactly*.  What the heck is that?!  Look at that broken asphalt!  Look at that enormous, fat stem bursting from a man-made ground!  Oh--right, you want to know what it is.

Yup--that is cock's comb, the popular backyard garden plant.  Taller than my daughter.
And though it may look artfully arranged there around O-Jizo Sama, I don't think anybody planted it on purpose in the crack between that step and the parking lot asphalt.

 ....besides, it was coming up in several other places as well.  This is not the kind of sidewalk-crack-plant you walk over without noticing.  I saw this stuff coming up in this place last year and just assumed it was a fluke, or maybe a joke.  Nope.  Came right back up again this year--same places by the Circle K parking lot and along the sidewalk and wall up to the Kumon classroom.

Makes a nice visual metaphor for perseverance, don't you think?

Here's a closer look at O-Jizosama (below):

Unusually for O-Jizosama, he has several pair of arms behind, and not what I'd call
a beatific expression:))

Lots of people in our hurried modern-day world tell themselves they need to "stop and smell the roses".  So they look around, don't see any roses or smelly flowers, and hurry on with their busy-ness, never noticing the strong, persistent life beneath their feet.  To that I say--get thyself a field book!  Those plants have names, too:))

Mata asobou, ne!

p.s.--I found last week's Yabukarashi coming up out of a crack next to the bus depot.

 Gambare, Yabukarashi!
                                                                                       ...Never say die!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Favorite Song

 I've been meaning to put up this Angela Aki video for a while, and after watching the video of brave Joel Burns at PZ Meyer's Pharyngula, now is the time.  If you've never heard of her, she's a Japanese-American singer/songwriter who's become popular recently in Japan.  I loved this song the first time I heard it, even though I couldn't catch all the words.  Hat tip to Sagwaneem, whose channel I've borrowed this from, for the beautiful English translation below.

This song is for Joel Burns.  This song is for Dan Savage, who started the It Gets Better movement.  This song is for every teenager who's ever been, or is being, bullied for the crime of simply being who they are.

The title of the song is "The Letter", written by Angela Aki, addressed to her 15-year-old self.

English Translation:
Dear you,
Who's reading this letter
Where are you and what are you doing now?

For me who's 15 years old
There are seeds of worries I can't tell anyone

If it's a letter addressed to my future self,
Surely I can confide truly to myself

Now, it seems that I'm about to be defeated and cry
For someone who's seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?
This one-and-only heart has been broken so many times
In the midst of this pain, I live the present

Dear you,
Thank you
I have something to tell the 15-year-old you

If you continue asking what and where you should be going
You'll be able to see the answer

The rough seas of youth may be tough
But row your boat of dreams on
Towards the shores of tomorrow
Now, please don't be defeated and please don't shed a tear
During these times when you're seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice
For me as an adult, there are sleepless nights when I'm hurt
But I'm living the bittersweet present

There's meaning to everything in life
So build your dreams without fear
Keep on believing

Seems like I'm about to be defeated and cry
For someone who's seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?

Please don't be defeated and please don't shed a tear
During these times when you're seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice

No matter era we're in
There's no running away from sorrow
So show your smile, and go on living the present
Go on living the present

Dear you,
Who's reading this letter
I wish you happiness

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Say Stats, Mom

My mother cannot, to save her life, pronounce the word "statistics" without tripping or spitting.  Most people don't like stats much, even though it feels like we are awash in them sometimes.  I used to feel that way myself--that statistics were being used, more often than not, to misinform, to hide the truth.  Until I saw  Hans Rosling speak on TED (down in links).

The following has nothing whatsoever to do with Japan, but may be loosely correlated with parenting.  Anyway, I said down there in my profile that I occasionally write about things that have nothing to do with anything.  And this is one of those occasions.  Besides--I simply adore this man.  He is brilliant, forthright, and his statistics are crystal clear--and utterly amazing.  Here is his most recent talk given at TED (he has given three others--watch them all and be amazed):

Enjoy.  And learn how to pronounce "statistics".

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Manglish-Baseball

Today's Manglish I found on the side of a baseball arcade game at the batting center.  Papa took us all to have a go a batting, and though I wasn't really in the mood, I went along anyway.  Who knew I'd find this treasure of a Manglish tucked away upstairs!

"This nostalgic game machine for which everyone was waiting.  Appearance from ATLUS
                       Desire in the interior of your chest is sure to be woken up."

Desire in the interior of your chest?  Oh dear, bilingual dictionaries can be useful...or very, very dangerous if you don't speak the language("I will not buy this tobacconist...").

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Run The Other Way

The most frightening sight I've ever been confronted with in Japan is this:

Two women of a certain age walking towards me, wearing modest skirts, beige hose, sensible shoes, and carrying large handbags...

Yes, the Jehovah's Witnesses have made converts of a few Japanese as well, and they go door to door, handing out the same tracts they do everywhere else.  Are they some sort of cosmological constant?

I say this in spite of the fact that I have a Japanese friend who is a Witness.  She lived in Texas (where her married daughter lives still with the grandchildren), so she speaks English well.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that's why she gets sent to canvass certain areas, so they don't have to walk away from a household where no Japanese is spoken.  Since she and I have experiences in common, it's always mutually agreeable to converse about those and any of several interests we share.  She is extraordinarily generous and kind--she never stops by without some herbs from her garden, or some hydrangeas, or a couple of lemons from her tree.  Or tracts.  And that's the thing--I consider her a friend, whether we agree on religious issues or not.  But the reverse, I think, is not true.  I'm fairly certain that she's been told to stick to her script and not get too friendly with a non-witness who doesn't appear to want to convert, or even discuss the bible much.  I wonder whether she sees how divisive that attitude really is.

A post over at The Atheist Rabbi brought this into my mind all of a sudden.  He put up a YouTube video of a Life of Brian scene that I hadn't seen in ages.  One of my favorites from that film, in fact, and one that reminds me of my Witness friend who lectured me from the Witness book "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" about how we're all supposed to run around using the Lord's name!  Some industrious Witness had in fact counted the number of times in the Hebrew Bible the Tetragrammaton  appears ("nearly 7,000 times!").  When she got to that bit, I chewed my lip, kept my peace, and let this scene run through my head:

So, bad news if you were thinking of emigrating to Japan to escape the Mormons (yup--they're here, too) and the Jehovah's Witnesses.  But I can tell you how to identify them from a distance without binoculars...:))

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Field Notes--Entangled

I've seen this vine every year since coming to Japan, often with a particular, very large, black butterfly fluttering around it. The one who wouldn't sit still last week .  You'd think I'd have looked it up earlier, but that's what comes of not having a flower book until last summer.  It's called "Yabukarashi" (Cayratia Japonica). I think most people see it as a weed, but up close, it's lacy and beautiful.  See?

 Here it has made the air conditioner it's own...

But look closer...  ooh!

 ...and closer still.  A humble green vine adorned with lacy filigree.  And butterflies like it--an added bonus.
...and if you look very closely, you can see the flowers that the butterflies must have been drinking from.  Itty, wee, pale pink things.  Every year this vine takes over some body's bicycle, at least until the grass-cutters come and pull everything up by the roots.  I never see this without thinking of that Haiku...

...the one that goes

     morning glory!
    the well bucket-entangled
    I ask for water

by chiyo-ni, considered the greatest female Haiku poet.

    Yabu Karashi!
the bicycle--entangled
    I walk to work

Here is the beautiful woodcut by Utagawa depicting Chiyo-ni beside the entangled bucket...

File:Caga no Chiyo standing beside a well.jpg       ....lovely, no?

Mata asobou, ne!

p.s.--Here's the butterfly who (usually) likes the Yabukarashi vine.  I found him paying a visit to the first graders' morning glories at school (though they're nearly done now):

 Now that I look at him, (and at Koshi's bug book), this is Benimon Agehachou--a species originally from Okinawa that migrated to Honshu in 1968.  *Not* the same as last week's!  Retraction!  Benimon (pachliopta aristolochiae, or Common Rose) is a swallowtail (clearly), and the one I chased down to the ginko tree last week was *not* a swallowtail, and had red spots on the top wings, so....Nagasaki Ageha papilio memnon, "Great Mormon" in English, though I've no idea why).  And, looking more closely at the bug book--the black butterfly I usually see hovering about Yabukarashi is (nearly) completely black Jakkou Agaha, at 50-60mm he's quite spectacular.  He's one of the "Windmill" group mostly found in India and China (hence the English common name "Chinese windmill"), although this subspecies, atrophaneura alcinous,is also found in Japan. 
  Can p.s.'s be this long?