Setsuko Watanabe's World Sketches

Japanese page

Native Land - Japan

2. Buckwheat Flowers and Heavenly Blue

Hidden outdoor hot springs along mountain torrents washed away the sweat of mountain climbing. I followed everyone as they alternated between the hot and lukewarm springs, and then cooled down by immersing their flushed bodies in the mountain stream. The water was clear and cold. So many fish were swimming in the stream, you could almost scoop them up in your hands. They tickled your body as they bumped into you.

White buckwheat flowerbed
White buckwheat flowerbed
Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe
For dinner, there was tempura made from buckwheat flowers, chitake mushrooms, and charr. We also had freshly-made buckwheat noodles, charr and rainbow trout sashimi, mountain vegetables boiled with sugar and soy sauce, and local sake. The villagers brought us freshly-picked apples. The night before, bears had ransacked the apple orchards and so they warned us against going out walking early in the morning.

In late summer, Aizu is dyed with the clean, white buckwheat flowerbeds, apple orchards heavily laden with fruit, cosmos and heavenly blue. The buckwheat fields increase every year. A 40-hectare area, once a Japanese radish field, was made into a buckwheat field ten years ago. The work of pulling the radishes out of the ground was too difficult for the aged farming community. Also, a healthy crop of radishes cannot be cultivated from the same soil year after year.

Heavenly blue
Heavenly blue
Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe

Heavenly blue grew wrapped along the eaves of every house. It was a type of blue morning glory which does not wilt in the daytime. In the north, blue flowers look even more remarkably rich and vivid.

In the past, I was given seeds of a similar type of heavenly blue. But the flowers soon wilted, and the petals turned red in the rain. As an experiment, I sprinkled vinegar on a blue petal. It turned red, proving to me that the reason for the change in color was the acid rain which fell on our house. Only in the northern highlands does heavenly blue bloom beautifully all day long.

The fleeting beauty of the four seasons-seen in the mountains, mountain torrents and forests- was part of the essence of Japan and had no match throughout the world. The beauty of the four seasons produced a delicate sensitivity and subtle sense of color in the Japanese, which almost all Western European artists imitated.

In recent years, in the excessive pursuit of convenience, we have conquered nature and built unlimited numbers of roads, housing facilities, factories and so on. In the midst of such barrenness of nature, the hearts and sensitivity of people become barren too.

The 21st century, instead of damaging nature even more for the convenience of humans, will be an age where humans will care for nature tenderly and live in unison with it. Because nature, the origin of all things, is the oasis for the hearts of modern people.

Map of Tashiroyama Swamp and surrounding areas

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe

- Return -
- back to home -