Poetic Name (Mei)
Description / source poetry
As the days get colder, we see fog-draped lakes at dawn. This is caused by the temperature of the water being higher than that of the air. This scene conjures up an ethereal, otherworldly sense.
Kare = withered; ashi = reed. ‘Kareashi’ is the seen of withered reeds. In the winter the water level of rivers reduces and the dry skeletons of reeds rustle in the
'Fuyugomori' is best translated as 'hibernation' in most cases. Walking through a mountain in winter, you can imagine little animals tucked away in caves and nestled into pockets of the mountain, curled up in hibernation. Humans, too, spend much of the winter confined inside.
Title of the modern Icelandic poem:
Silent is the springlet on the heath
hidden by sallow leaves
every bird flew over the sea
The wanderer roams
bowed he threads the cliff-tops to the farmhouse
and asks for winter refuge
his fiddle tucked in his knapsack
Muhyō (mu = fog, mist; hyō = ice) is the phenomenon of fog forming icicles on trees when the temperature drops to freezing. It can also refer to semi-translucent ice that has formed on trees and rocks. Muhyō in the morning sunlight is especially beautiful.
‘Ginchiku’ literally means 'silver bamboo' and is a poetic description of the icicles that form from dripping water from eaves, rocks, and tree branches. In Japanese the usual word for icicle is ‘tsurara’ and written 氷柱. In the past, in summer people would place long blocks of ice in rooms of their house to cool rooms down. These were also written 氷柱 but pronounced ‘hyōchū’.
The howling noise of the winter wind as it blows through bamboo gates and fences. 'Mogari' means bamboo fence and 'bue' means whistle. It's as if the rickety fences have been transformed into musical instruments.
In the past, kuchibeni (red lipstick) was made from the beni flower and sold in small sake cups. The kuchibeni made in cold weather was considered the best quality. The very best kuchibeni was that sold on the day of the ox in winter (nowadays the end of January in Japan). This kuchibeni was also said to prevent ulcers.
Kitty by the kiln
Feline by the fire
Kamado = cooking stove; neko = cat. ‘Kamado neko’ refers to a cat sleeping in the warmth of a cooking stove in the winter.
The Rōbai, also known as ‘Karaume’ is a deciduous tree shrub that blossoms in yellow flowers with a magnificent perfume in December (also know as ‘Rōgetsu’ or
‘Month of the Rōbai’ in China and Japan). The ume blossom is a relative of the Rōbai.
Image by Wiiii at Japanese Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons
寒 kan = cold, 松 shō = pine. Kanshō refers to the sight of evergreen pines in the depth of winter. The ‘Three friends through the cold’ are the pine that never loses
its green, the tall and supple bamboo, and the ume blossom that is the first flower to bloom at winter's end. These three plants are especially revered in Japan. The evergreen pine also lives a
long life, and is a symbol of longevity.
'Isana' is an old Japanese word for 'whale'. The characters signify 'brave' 勇 'fish' 魚. An Old Norse word for whale is 'reytharhvalr', from which the English rorqual derives. In Ancient Greek, 'óryga' described a large fish and became 'orca' in English via Latin influence.
Whales frolic in the southern oceans of Australia in the winter. Whales also journey to the oceans surrounding Japan in the winter months.
These majestic creatures have a profound and enduring place not only in our oceans, but in the sub-conscious and mythological life of humans.