Tuesday, April 06, 2010

spring …a window into Japan

Yesterday 05April, was Qing Ming – 清明. It is the first major festival after the Lunar New Year festivities in the Chinese calendar of traditional festivals.

Another must know of this season, other than it being the Tomb-sweeping day, is the Tang Dynasty poem by Du Mu – 杜牧 - 803-852CE , titled Qing Ming - 清明


Tis the season of Qing Ming with misty rain filling the air
Along the path a traveler on foot filled with melancholy
Asked ‘Whence the wine shop? ‘
The little cowherd pointed his finger to the distant Qing Hua Village

Thro the millennium this poem has set the mood for the season. And even in tropical Singapore & SEA, where rain is expected practically daily – when it rains around this time of the year, the older Chinese folks would as a matter of fact quote – it’s because Qing Ming is near.

Where in the Chinese psyche – the start of April is perhaps rainy, a call to filial observances, across the ocean and east of the China Sea, and to the Land of the Rising Sun – April registers a differently mood altogether.

The rainy season of Plum Rain – 梅雨 - tsuyu - in the beginning of summer – is still two months away.

The mood is perhaps best conveyed by this QSL card from Radio Japan – with the pinkish blossom of Sakura busting onto the scene practically over night – to truly herald the return of Spring to mother earth.

In the Japanese literature many a story and poem starts with ….

満開の桜の木の下に - mankai no sakura no ki no shita ni ….
Beneath the full bloom Sakura tree. ..

The new fiscal and academic year starts in April in Japan. It is said that one of the first assignment of new hires is to go and ‘chop’ a place beneath the full bloom Sakura tree for the company picnic.

In our lower secondary school days in the early 1970/s we were taught the Japanese folk song - Sakura. We sang it in Japanese, but did not know what the lyrics meant, expect that Sakura means Cherry Blossom.

Japan then, was the premier developed country in Asia and well on her way to becoming the ‘Japan as No 1: Lessons for America” of Ezra Vogel best seller in 1979.

My window into Japan then – was thro Radio Japan, the shortwave station overseas station of NHK – the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. While my cohorts would listen to Bee Gees and Melody Fair, I would be tuned in to Radio Japan to the likes of such pops as:

Jirozu - ジローズ - 戦争は知らないこどもたち - sensoo wa shiranai kodomotachi - The kids who doesn’t know about war
Fuse Akira布施 明 – シクラメンのかおり- shikuramen no kaori - The fragrance of Cyclamen

Fast forward:
April 05- 2010/Monday bulletin - Radio Japan – 3680khz 2300hrs UTC:
- This year’s Sakura bloom lasted a record of 10 days. In normal years it would be in full bloom on average for 8 days, and starts to fade. However because of the cold weather that followed after it blossomed; it lasted for a good 10 days.

To get into the mood of the Sakura season on this tropical island, a live Sakura in bloom was exhibited at Nee Ann City – the premier shopping center with Takashimaya as anchor tenant.

Meanwhile, the love affair of Singaporeans with Japanese food & things Japanese continues unabated …be it in hiragana or katakata … a brand with touch of Japanese seems to sell….

Postscript :

1. QSL card –
dated : April 4 – 1993,
address: 7D, Paya Lebar Road.
This QSL card from Radio Japan was dated 04April1993. It was an acknowledgement of the technical report on the reception condition of the shortwave broadcast

Though it is 17 years ago to the day that I got this Qcard, the engagement with Radio Japan goes back much longer and the first QSL card I got from Japan went back another 20 years before that – in the early 1970/s .

2. Yakun Kaya Toast @ Central

3. Japanese food stall @ Chinatown food center
まるはちまる - 080

5. Japanese pops
戦争は知らないこどもたち– ジローズ

シクラメンのかおり– 布施 明