I cut the last rose
from the bush outside my door
and pricked my finger
Late summer, early autumn bring with them a certain sadness at the passing of the fair summer days and coming of the cold winter. This time also brings much happiness and beauty celebrated throughout the world. In Japan the autumn is a time of mountains turning to magnificent crimson brocade tapestries and cities glowing in wonderful autumn tints as the days grow cooler.
The aki no nana kusa, seven grasses of autumn, were often mentioned in the Man’yoshu, the first collection of Japanese poetry and song. The seven grasses are
- hagi – bush clover
- susuki – Japanese pampas grass (mischanthus sinensis),
- kuzu – arrowroot,
- nadeshiko – pink or dianthus,
- ominaeshi – patrina,
- fujibakama – mistflower, and
- asagao – morning glory.
It is through coupled verse of Yamanoue Okura, a court noble during the reign of Emperor Shomu (724-729) that the seven autumn grasses have become well known. While it is uncertain who grouped these grasses together for the first time, they have been deeply rooted into Japan’s daily life and history. Their presence in the gardens of the Heian aristocracy was probably a great source of poetic inspiration.
A whole year has turned around and here we are back at September. The moon is still a good theme for the month as is the chrysanthemum.
On the 9th day of September is the festival of the Chrysanthemum. A good gomei for this day is Kiku Jido. Kiku Jido is about a young page to the Emperor who was banished because he stepped across the Emperor’s pillow. While he was in the mountains he lived off the dew of the chrysanthemum and became immortal.
Other gomei for September:
hagi no tsuyu – dew on the bush clover
hatsu kari – first geese
aki no sora – autumn sky
nowake – wind parting the grass in the fields
meigetsu – bright moon
haku ro – white dew (cold dew, not quite frozen)
treetops turning gold
orange tipped leaves clinging on
Late summer, early autumn bring with them a certain sadness at the passing of the fair summer days and the coming of the cold winter. This time also brings much happiness and beauty celebrated with the harvests. In Japan, autumn is a time of mountains turning brilliant color brocade as the days grow cooler.
September is the month for moon viewing. The September moon has come on the 7th this year, and it was gloriously full and big because this full moon is the closest full moon of 2006. This September full moon resides about 50,000 kilometers – or 30,000 miles – closer to Earth than it did at the year’s most distant full moon last February. Many will call this moon the Harvest Moon, and you might as well, since it behaves just like a Harvest Moon. But, officially, this year, the Harvest Moon – or closest full moon to the September equinox – will come in October.
On the 9th of September is the Chrysanthemum Festival, Kikku no Seku. It is said that if you put cotton over the blossoms to gather the dew of the chrysanthemum flowers the night before, you can use it to bathe your face and enjoy long life.
Tea sweets and utensil themes for September include the full moon, chrysanthemums, dew, hagi (Japanese bush clover), wild geese (hatsu kari) and insects.
A note from my friend Tats in Scotland: “September is the month of wild geese, and it is here too, as our migrant geese return from their northern summer area. At the same time, the baby spiders start to spin huge amounts of webs in the grass, which we call “gossamer”, because it appears now, with the geese, in “goose-summer”. They use the gossamer to fly! The baby spiders let out a line until the wind catches it and it’s long enough to lift them up, then get carried away like a thistledown.
An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu, by Michael A. Birch
Chado: The Way of Tea, A Japanese Tea Master’s Almanac, translated from the Japanese by Shaun McCabe and Iwasaki Satoko.
Notes from Midorikai lectures, 1996-1997