Coming from the Northeast of the United States I was perplexed the first time a Japanese person asked me how many seasons we had where I lived. “Four,” of course, was my reply.
My confusion deepened as existence of four season was questioned. “But are they all different,” my Japanese friend asked? There was more than a slight hint of disbelief.
“Well… yeah…. We have hot summers, then it gets cool and the leaves change, after that it gets real cold and there is snow, then the snow melts it get warmer and everything blooms.”
“Really,” she asked? Almost like I had hurt her feelings.
People in Japan are proud of many things. It turns out that one of those things is the existence of four discernible seasons. They even have a kanji for it 四季 (shiki). The Japanese love their seasons, haikus were practically invented for the seasons. It is unclear to me where the idea that most, if not the rest, of the world was stuck with less than four seasons, but it is clearly the majority opinion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “here in Japan we have four seasons,” in a tone that clearly signaled I was supposed to be blow-away.
One thing that is clear, the Japanese seem to appreciate their seasons a bit more than folks back home in the US. Sure, we all have a favorite season, but most of us don’t take it to the level that most Japanese people do.
Part of this hyper-awareness may come from the cherry blossom tree. Every spring, throughout Japan these beautiful trees speckled the landscape with massive pink clouds. It is an amazing site, one that some Japanese people follow like groupies— going from region to region as the blossoms hit their peak. Even considering cherry blossoms in DC there is nothing like it in the US. The sheer scale, age, and the dramatic landscape upon which it is imposed make it a sight well worth seeing.
It is a strange ordeal to have to convince a person that your hometown has seasons that are very similar to their hometown. At first I mistook it for a superiority complex, which it maybe for some, but for most it is a simpler combination of a love for nature, pride in their country, and unfamiliarity with the world beyond what they see through TV and movies. A recipe that seems common throughout the world in slight variations.