Summer in the Japanese Countryside - Reminiscences of Summer

Jan. 10, 2001. M.Sekine

"Every time summer comes, I recall...", Nakada Yoshinao's song, Natsu-no-omoide, (literally, "Reminiscences of Summer"), Nakada recalls "faraway Oze, faraway sky" every summer. In my case, I recall the yard of the home where I lived when I was an elementary school student. Every time I saw a butterfly visiting our yard, I looked up its name in an illustrated insect book published by Shogakukan, which my father had bought for me.
My summer holiday research project, given by the teacher over the holidays, always gave me a tough time. The electronic crafts kits, which were popular back then, were too expensive for my parents to afford. I envied friends who got these kits. A sun-tanned girl submitted her collection of pretty seashells arranged neatly on cotton in a display box made of a used-snack box. To me, both the specimens and the very deeply sun-tanned skin of the girl were too brilliant to look at. As I entered the higher grades, although I played baseball and dodgeball with my friends, I was the kind of kid who preferred reading books, indulging in my own imagination and relaxing by watching TV, rather than being so active at play, as to get a deep suntan.
It was often my mother who chose the subject for the summer holiday research project. "A comparison between the growth of a soy bean and the growth of a green pea"... it was my mother who took care of the project and took pictures of the experiment. My teacher praised me for this research: "You worked very hard to patiently observe them every day." - but it was my mother who deserved my teacher's praise.
In general I don't have enough patience to take good care of things or to create neat specimens. For an insect specimen, the insect's legs must be carefully aligned using mounting pins. If the specimen is a butterfly, its wings must be spread open on a mounting board. This was quite a hassle for me to do. The specimen box was another problem. "If I make it myself, I already know that I would do a miserable job, even before comparing it to the ones which are sold in department stores"...I worried about how it would look even before I had started constructing it, and decided that it would be too much trouble to even bother. Specimens are troublesome even after they have been created. I came up with all sorts of reasons why I should not make specimens, for example, "I must protect my specimens from being eaten by museum beetles", and concluded that I should not proceed with this project.
Is there any faster method of displaying a specimen? I found that there was another method of displaying butterflies, called the "scale transfer" method. It is rather cruel. Scissors are used to cut the wings off the body of the captured butterfly. The body is not needed and is thrown away. Egg white is spread on some paper using a paintbrush, and the cut-off butterfly wings are then pressed against the paper and left for a few days. Only the wing's scales stick to the paper, so all that needs to be done is for the area containing the scales to be cut out and glued onto a paper background, then the missing butterfly body can be drawn in with colored pencils. A specimen box is not required and no wings need to be spread open with this method. This is a good method. The Chinese yellow swallowtail butterfly (ageha-cho), the common yellow swallowtail (ki ageha), the straight swift (ichimonji seseri), the Chinese comma (ki tateha), the cabbage white (monshiro-cho), the gray-veined white (sujiguro shiro-cho), the pale clouded yellow (monki-cho), the orange hairstreak (aka shijimi) mother helped me but I drew their bodies all by myself.
I made a great discovery when creating specimens using the scale transfer method. When I transferred the scales of a blue triangle (aosuji ageha), I found that the wing areas on the white paper, which should have contained blue stripes, were still white, rather than blue. Japanese name, aosuji ageha, which means "blue-striped swallowtail". I found that the blue wing stripes of the blue triangle were not actually scales and that the wings themselves contained blue coloration. It was a very exciting discovery for me at this elementary school student age. It was my first experience to discover something all by myself, rather than by reading about it in a book.
As the Bon festival in August had passed when the summer holiday research project was almost completed and the tsukutsuku-boshi cicadas started to sing, the countdown toward the opening ceremony for the second semester would soon start. The tsukutsuku-boshi cicada sings from late summer well into autumn. I put my desk in the hallway (it was the coolest place in the house), as I was feeling pressure from the yet uncompleted homework assignment, but I couldn't make any progress at all. As the days went by, I would wake up crying because I dreamed that I couldn't finish my assignment on time. Even now, whenever I hear the tsukutsuku-boshi cicada's song, symbolizing a fragile and temporary beauty, I feel sad that the summer holiday will soon be over and I feel nostalgic recalling the days when I was busy catching up to finish the rest of my assignment.

A blue triangle

Blue wing stripes of the blue triangle are not actually scales and the wings themselves contain blue coloration.