Descent of Frost: Insects tuck themselves away

May 5th, 2012
by Hollis Bridgeman Law

The last days of autumn were an assortment of glorious sunny days, rainy periods, and increasingly frosty nights. The Bureau of Meteorology released a temperature outlook for the May to July period that forecasts a warmer winter for souther-eastern Australia. In this way, autumn ended on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Greogorian calendar. In Japan, May 5th is Children’s Day, a national holiday.

Children’s Day makes up part of Japan’s Golden Week (when four national holidays occur within a period of seven days). It has its origin in the mid-summer celebration of Dunwa Jie (端午節) in China. Known as Tuen Ng festival in Hong Kong, this annual public holiday falls in June, probably best know for the dragon boat races held on the day. In ancient Japan, the day marked the beginning of the rainy season that occurs at the height of summer. Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1873 relocated the festivity to a month earlier somewhat distancing it from its seasonal roots. Although now known as Children’s Day, Tengo no Sekku (端午の節句) has not lost its tradition as ‘Boys’ day’ and the customs associated with male children in the family. Girls celebrate their day on the third day of the third month: Hina-matsuri or Doll’s Festival (also known as Momo no Sekku 桃の節句 or Peach blossoms Festival).

When we were in Japan, we observed that insect collecting is still a popular activity amongst children. Boys, in particular, can be seen carrying small sweep nets and little pastic boxes, wandering in Tokyo’s parks like Meguro’s Shizen Kyoiku-en (National Institute for Nature Study) or Yoyogi koen with their mothers in tow, looking for insects. For many, this fascination with mushi (虫 or insect) is an integral part of their childhood and, indeed, of Japanese culture. References to insects are deep-rooted in Japanese paintings, poetry, and literature. In their diversity, they are at once venerated and awe-inspiring. In these last days of autumn, by tucking themselves away many insects have found themselves in our home. Least not, the small but loud cricket Hollis was delighted to find in his bed. With Redmond’s help, the little insect with a surprisingly large jaw was captured and enthusiastically released by Hollis.

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