Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Is Singing the Song?

image from Wikipedia
During the daytime I hear cicadas droning on and severe lingering heat is forecast for the week ahead. However, I feel the sign of autumn among their voices. In the evening I hear higurashi (evening cicada, Tanna Japonensis) singing.

Actually they started to appear as early as from June but they can be heard most often when the temperature drops or when it becomes cloudy around this time of the year usually in the evening or early morning. Because of this, higurashi is a word associated with autumn in poetry.

Speaking of clear, beautiful voice, I remember when I heard the song with a beautiful resonant tone in the wooded hills in Tenkawa, Yoshino, where a clear stream ran nearby. I thought it was a birdsong. To my great surprise, a friend of mine said it was a frog! A frog?! What came to my mind was the memory of the croak in chorus from the rice paddy fields as a child. 
Anyway, why don't you listen to this first.

I was so ignorant but I knew this was a species of frog called 河鹿蛙 (kajika frog), endemic to Japan.
As you might think, contrary to its beautiful voice, the appearance is sober and rugged and develops protective coloration dapple. Its natural habitat is temperate forests and streams. The beautiful song is courtship display during April to July. However, their desperate courtship doesn't always pay off because of fewer population of female ones. It’s not an easy job to find mates for them as well.

みたらい渓谷(Mitarai gorge) in Tenkawa with several falls, huge oddly shaped rocks and crystalline water in the stream is my favorite destination. In autumn this area turns into a breathtaking tints. (autumn last year)

It was slightly raining and the raindrops made tiny splashes on the clear quiet water. It was really like water fairies were dancing merrily on the water.

This is a suspension bridge called 哀伝橋 ( sorrow passing bridge). This secluded mountain area in Yoshino was and is a religious homeplace for Shugendo practitioners but at the same time it was once a refuge for political losers who attempted a comeback but in vain. It has been steeped in a wealth of history and legends. 

Now it has become a popular place many hikers visit all through the year. At downstream basin, families or people on holidays were having fun in the river though it was a bit cooler to bathe.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Alpine Meadow and Aqua Fairy

It would be a shame not to enjoy the blessing of nature to make an escape from heat waves we are now in.
At the top of Mt. Ibuki (1337m), the alpine meadow is now the best season for various wild flowers. ( related post is here)
ミヤマコアザミ(miyamakoazami)  シシウド(shishiudo)

イブキトラノオ (ibukitoranoo)

If you are lucky enough, you can see the whole Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan, below from the western slope of the mountain. When I went there, it was a poor visibilty but several photographers were waiting patiently for the fog to disperse.



The alpine meadow here has been known as a depository of medicinal herbs since early times. Back to the time of 織田信長(Oda Nobunaga, 1534~1582, he ordered Portuguese missionary to bring medicinal herbs from Europe and transplant them in the field of Mt. Ibuki. . I happened to see  キバナノレンリソウ (kibana-no-renriso, meadow vetchling,which is thought to have come along at that time and to have become native to this place.

The temperature is 8 to 10 degrees lower here. Besides, occasional  mists rising from the bottom is a natural air conditioner.

On the way home from it, I stopped by 醒井(Samegai), where it used to flourish as the 61st inn town of 中山道 (Nakasendo): one of the two routes that connected Edo, the present Tokyo, and Kyoto in Edo period (1603~1867). There still have old houses and streets that remind you of those days, however, what attracts visitors here now is 梅花藻(baika-mo; water weed which have tiny little flowers like Japanese apricot flower. They only grow in a crystal clear stream so you can see them at only limited places in Japan.

mingled with reflection of potted flowers on the bridge

I was not able to capture the detailed
     picture of the flowers under water,
 so this image is from here

地蔵川(Jizo Riverwhere they grow is not a big river and local people use it to cool water melons, tomatoes, or ラムネ(bottled lemonade for sale. There are some small bridges over the stream and I found several Sunday painters and photographers enjoying spending their own times leisurely on the bridges. I felt I was in a different time and place in that special district.

                                A dog, while taking a walk,  can't resist playing in the river.

居醒の清水(Isame-no-shimizu) is a water-spring where Jizo River flows from. A legend says it was where 日本武尊 (Yamato Takeru) recovered his health by cooling off in the water after wounded in fighting against the god of Mt. Ibuki. He was said to name the place Isame-no-shimizu.

(baika-mo at Jizo River)

(alpine meadow at Mt. Ibuki)

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