Gentle rains of early May

Shinto priestess ladies about to begin their work dayA sure sign of summer’s arrival in Japan is warm, pleasant rains of early May, called Samidare.

The picture above was taken in Miyazaki Shrine. The priestess ladies are about to begin their work day, which includes tasks such as sacred cleansing, ritual dances as well as running the Shrine’s shops.

In the traditional Japanese calendar summer begins on May 5. This all-important date is also the Children’s Day national holiday (Kodomo no hi) and Iris Day (Ayame no hi).

Among the oldest traditions observed on this day are preparing baths with iris leaves (shōbu-yu), and displaying potpourri decorations made from iris and yomogi leaves (kusudama).

It has been raining for the past two days. Rivers are full and their banks are covered with Yomogi and vivid-colored Ayame irises.

The following haiku was written by Issa Kobayashi (1763 – 1828) over two centuries ago.

After the rain
colors of a deep rainbow
irises
(Ama-agari / nanairo fukashi / hana-ayame)

Deep rainbow-colored after the rain

It still rings fresh today!

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