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The four seasons are distinct in Japan, so the Japanese people value the sense of each season. They replace their “kakejiku” (hanging scrolls) depending on the season. This kind of kakejiku is called “kisetsu-gake” (seasonal kakejiku).
Plum trees are often chosen as a subject for early spring paintings. Many Japanese people like plum trees because they are the first to blossom. Bush warblers are often depicted with plum trees in Japanese art.
Cherry blossoms are also often used as a subject for spring paintings. Cherry blossoms as a symbol of spring, is familiar to the Japanese, because they see them bloom beautifully at that time every year.
The peony, considered “the king of flowers” in China, is often used as a subject for early summer paintings. However, in the “kakejiku” (hanging scroll) world, displaying a peony kakejiku is considered the best hospitality you can give to a guest. Therefore, this kakejiku is often displayed even in seasons other than early summer.
Carp (called “koi”) are another common subject for summer paintings. The great popularity of “nishikigoi” (coloured carps) suggests, many Japanese people love carp. According to “Gokanjo” (History of the Later Han Dynasty), a lot of fish tried to swim up a waterfall called “Ryuumon,” in the rapid stream of the Yellow River, but only the carp succeed and thus became dragons. From that story, “touryuumon” (gateway) became a symbol for success in life. “Koinobori,” meaning “carp streamer” in Japanese, are carp-shaped wind socks traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate “Tango no Sekku” (the Boys’ Festival). Tango no Sekku is a traditional anuual event, now designated a national holiday: Children’s Day. This is why carp, shooting up a waterfall, are often used as a subject for paintings during Tango no Sekku.
The sweetfish (“ayu”) is one of the summer features in Japan, and suggests a fresh, cooling feeling to us.
The kingfisher is well loved in Japan. It never misses its prey and is considered a symbol of the fulfillment of a prayer. The kingfisher is seen throughout the year, but is often used as a subject for summer paintings. This is because the presence of a kingfisher at the waterside makes one feel refreshed in summer.
Morning glories represent summer. They were developed by Japanese gardening technology. As a result, many Japanese people love morning glories.
The seven main kinds of Japanese autumn flowers are called “akinonanakusa”: bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, kudzu, a pink, Patrinia scabiosaefolia, thoroughwort, and bellflower. These seven autumn flowers provide visual enjoyment. Their simplicity is very much admired: they are small and dainty, yet beautifully colored. They are, therefore, often painted as a symbol for autumn.
The persimmon is often painted as a symbol for autumn, because the persimmon tree produces a lot of fruit in autumn.
Colored leaves represent autumn. When leaves turn red in autumn, they are very beautiful and wonderful to look at. There are many places famous for their colored leaves in Japan.
Chrysanthemum flowers represent Autumn. They’re also considered noble in Japan, this is because the Japanese imperial crest is in the shape of a chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemums were developed by Japanese gardening technology. As a result, many Japanese people love chrysanthemum flowers.
The nandina bears beautiful little red fruit in winter. The nandina is called “nanten” in Japan. The Nanten is used to pray for happiness because it sounds like “nan-ga-tenjiru,” which means to reverse bad luck.
The camellia is also often painted as a symbol for winter or early spring. It is valued in the tea ceremony as well, because Sen no Rikyuu loved camellias.