[The Sound of Insects]

It is the time of year when the sound of insects at night reminds us of the autumn season. Autumn is rapidly deepening this year. Japan has four beautiful seasons and a culture of enjoying seasonal changes. The sound of autumn insects can be found in various genres such as waka poems, novels, classical arts, and paintings. The Manyoshu, Japan's oldest anthology of poetry, also contains poems about insects.

"The garden grasses are being rained upon, and the chirping of crickets is heard, and autumn has come."

The meaning of this poem is that the sudden, intense rain shower on the garden's grass and the chirping of crickets made me realize that autumn has truly arrived. People have loved the sound of insects since ancient times, so much so that the word "insect" is an autumnal term that describes the chirping of insects in the fall. People have long loved the sound of insects, and have written waka poems about them, feeling a deep and profound emotion and a sense of impermanence and melancholy.

In the Heian period (794-1185), the aristocratic class began to enjoy the sound of insects, and the "野放ち" of insects into the garden to enjoy their calls, and the "虫聞き" by going out into the field to listen to their calls became popular. During the Edo period (1603-1867), this culture spread to the common people, and as depicted in the ukiyoe "Toto Meisho Michibuzan Mushimikinozu" by Utagawa Hiroshige, people began to gather at places famous for theirと insect listening.

Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn), who bridged Japanese and Western cultures during the Meiji era, wrote in his essay "Insect Musicians."

"We Westerners have something to learn from the Japanese people, who can fill our hearts with all the tender and delicate fantasies we can muster just by hearing the cry of a single cricket."

Let's enjoy the sound of insects echoing in the long autumn nights again this year.

Showroom Information

Insect Musician: The Koizumi Yakumo Collection (translated by Masayuki Ikeda, Chikuma Bunko)
https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/1303513/1/1 (Digital Collections, National Diet Library)