While the much anticipated blooming of cherry blossoms has begun in many parts of the archipelago, here in the Kiso Valley we continue to wait for spring to come. Winter breaks late here in the mountains, usually only after a long bout with the forces of spring—a warm day may be followed by a snowstorm, while a frosty night might give way to a scorching noon-day sun. Care must be taken so that one’s body does not succumb to the swings in temperature. . .layered clothing is a must.
However, despite this small burden, in the Kiso Valley the liminal period between winter and spring is a marvelous time. In my own village of Otaki the warmer days draw resident to their fields and gardens to prepare soils for planting. Excursions into the mountains, where the trees still stand skeletal and leafless, allow one to experience the first flourishes of the year’s wild vegetable harvest. Fuki-no-toh (butterbur sprout) are the first to arrive; they hide beneath the fallen leaves of the previous fall. In the days to come a cornucopia of vegetables will appear in the Kiso Valley: yama-wasabi, yomogi, zenmai, warabi, toriashi-shouma, tara-no-me, yama-udo, and on and on.
And eventually, after the lowlands are well on their way to summer, the mountains of Otaki and the rest of the Kiso Valley will begin to blush with cherry blossoms. This will be followed by a great swell of green as the forests here come to life in one great rush, eager for the few precious months of warm they are blessed with each year. Until then, all of us—plants, animals, and perhaps especially humans—will wait patiently for the coming of the spring.