Japan's 72 Microseasons - #7
"Hibernating Insects Open Their Doors"
March 6 - 10
すもごりむし とを ひらく
Sumogori-mushi to wo hiraku
"Hibernating insects open their doors"
Ice and snow melt, rain falls onto newly revealed soil, haze rises as the ground heats, green sprouts capture the Sun’s rays, everything becomes warmer and brighter and more alive—a step-by-step process repeated year after year.
The stage is set for Sekki 3: Keichitsu (啓蟄), the awakening period of insects and other small things. In this kō, we talk about hibernating “insects,” but truly we are talking about all sorts of critters that live in and on the ground. So it is that, in the image above, we feature not beetles or flies or even worms, but frogs. Different languages categorize things different ways, and so it is that Japanese considers mushi (虫) to be not only bugs, but also, well, general creepy-crawlies. (In fact, the 虫 character originally represented snakes, and “reptiles” is still written 爬虫). You can observe the sort of hieroglyphic genesis here:
While often subtly, different, in this case the sekki and its first kō actually both point to the same occurrence: the seasonal period when bugs and other little critters are once again active. The two kanji characters in the sekki: 啓 (kei) and 蟄 (chitsu), appear in this kō, albeit with different readings but same meaning of insect hibernation ending. Having already mentioned 虫 above, we’re 3/4 of the way to understanding this kō. The final character is 戸 (to) which quite simply refers to a door or entrance. So we have hibernating (蟄) insects (虫) opening (啓) their doors (戸).
You won’t see the first character, 蟄, in common use unless you are talking about hibernating insect or, strangely, under house arrest. For the Koyomi, it was localized as sumogori (巣もごり) which is a more general word for “nesting” or “hibernating.” Following that is our “little ground critter” character 虫, combining to mean “hibernating critters.” 啓 is another character most won’t see unless writing a very formal letter, as it still appears in the polite salutation haikei (拝啓), loosely meaning something like “respectfully opening.” But the “open” part is what we’re taking here, and those things that spend their winter underground are letting the sunshine in in this kō.
What all these tiny earth-dwelling denizens are waiting for is of course not a specific calendar date, but rather a pattern of warm temperatures. Apparently the average has to hold at around 10°C (50 F) in order to get those bug doors open. So the exact timing can vary place to place, but if you’re in the northern hemisphere and things have been in the double digits lately, why not have a look around the ground to see what’s moving?
And if nothing out there is crawling out of their hibernating holes yet? Well, I suppose it’s up to you to get out there and kick off the season!
See you next kō~
Keep up with the seasons