One of the minor but common grievances you’ll find among expatriates in Japan is a disdain for being asked “Does your country have four seasons?” or what sometimes comes across as excessive praise for Japan having four seasons. While it can be a bit comical at times, these comments are usually misunderstood, as most Japanese people are referring to how distinct and pronounced the differences between the four seasons are in Japan, and is an appreciation of the sights, sounds, and events celebrated between fall, winter, spring, and summer.
Japanese artist @white16074 has created a series of four illustrations that beautifully highlights those seasonal distinctions through the imposing but graceful images of birds, which have an integral role in Japanese cultural and religious life, as well as pop culture. The series is aptly called the “spiritual birds of the four seasons”, and is a delight to look at.
The illustration shows spring as a sakura and peacock hybrid, overlooking a family partaking in hanami (cherry blossom viewing) below. The piece’s title is a play on an old Japanese proverb that states “A woman is a ghost”, which means that with the guise of makeup and dress, women can appear as entirely different people–perhaps a reference to how dramatically different areas in Japan appear when blanketed fully blooming cherry blossom trees.
How about conquering demons? (Oni taiji, dou desu ka?)
This depiction of summer features a green pheasant, Japan’s national bird, sporting a tail of Morning Glory flowers hosting tanabata, the Japanese star festival celebrated in the summer which involves writing down one’s wishes and attaching them to bamboo. It also references Momotaro, perhaps Japan’s most popular folklore hero, who famously encountered a talking pheasant on his quest to defeat demons/ogres.
The colorful leaves of autumn (koyo) are to autumn in Japan what cherry blossoms are to spring. Many of the top ranked tourist locations in Japan are doubly sought out in the fall for the experience of seeing them covered in vibrant foliage. Plus, flaming and autumn make for a nice pun!
It won’t give it back.
Perhaps this chilling crane is representative of how harsh winter and blankets of snow can swallow up certain outdoor adventures (such as the flying of a kite), all the while providing some of Japan’s most beautiful landscapes and instilling a longing for brighter days as beautiful trees and flowers rest under the whiteness of snow and ice.