Home Japanese warriors VOX POPULI: As weeds bloom in the rainy season, a reflection on what they cover

VOX POPULI: As weeds bloom in the rainy season, a reflection on what they cover


Actor Masaki Suda played the role of Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) in Japan Broadcasting Corp’s “taiga” period drama. (NHK) this year’s “Kamakura-dono no 13-nin” (The 13 lords of the shogun of Kamakura).

Suda performed the role of the tragic war hero – who was also a legendary warrior of the Minamoto clan and a prominent figure in the Genpei War (1180–85) with the Taira clan – with enigmatic cheerfulness.

The character, as played by the actor, scared me at times with his quest for victory by any means, but I kinda miss him now that he’s been ruined along with his vassals in the drama.

Centuries after the death of Yoshitsune and his men, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), a famous haiku poet, composed a short poem reflecting on the fate of these warriors.

“Natsukusa ya /tsuwamono domo ga /yume no ato” (Summer herbs /all that remains /of soldiers’ dreams).

According to an interpretation of the poem in a Dictionary of Famous Poems and Quotes published by Sanseido Co., a Japanese publishing house.

Summer grasses in Japan grow profusely as if to erase the memories of everything that happened there in the past.

Thanks to the heat and humidity of a Japanese summer, weeds grow so abundantly during the season that they are difficult to manage. The difficult challenge posed by weeds can have a profound impact on our society and our culture.

Tsuneichi Miyamoto (1907-81), a giant of folklore, believed that the strength of weeds defined Japanese agriculture. Weeding rice fields is a tedious job, but it must be done meticulously time and time again.

In large-scale agriculture using many workers, it can be difficult to ensure that weeding is carried out carefully.

This may explain why small-scale farming, in which arable land is left in the care of individual farmers, has become common in Japan, Miyamoto said in his book “Nihon wo omou” (Thinking about Japan).

Miyamoto probably developed this theory while traveling around this country.

Even though I only have a small garden to tend, I can understand that farming in this country is, at its heart, a war against weeds.

The phrase “as tough as weeds” sounds true to us because we’ve lived in this climate for a long time.

As the rainy season soon sets in, we will once again marvel at the creeping force of weeds.

–The Asahi Shimbun, June 5

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers helpful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.