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Scarecrow Fallen in Battle: Part I

Some time ago, I encountered a word so specific that it could only be Japanese:

野分 or 野分き (のわき: late autumn windstorm in the countryside, typically caused by a typhoon or cyclone, esp. on the 210th and the 220th days of the year)    field + to divide

When people calculate the 210th day of the year, they don't start counting from January 1. Rather, they begin with the first day of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar. Known as 立春 (りっしゅん), that day now tends to fall on February 4. Therefore, Days 210 (二百十日, にひゃくとおか) and 220 (二百二十日, にひゃくはつか) are around September 1 and September 11.

On those dates, the wind is supposed to be strongest in Japan, so farmers there have long kept the two 野分 dates in mind in a cautionary way.

The word 野分 is quite old. It literally means "to divide the grass on the field," as when wind parts grasses during a storm. This reminds me of one of my favorite words:

草分け (くさわけ: pioneer)    grass + to divide

It's as if trailblazers divide the grasses, creating a path for the rest of us to follow.

Photo Credit: 多摩に暇人

Flattened rice field after a typhoon. The Wikipedia caption for this photo is 倒伏した稲:

倒伏 (とうふく: falling down)
稲 (いね: rice plant)

I never expected to encounter 野分 in real life, but then I spotted it right at the beginning of a haiku posted on Facebook! Yoshikazu Kunugi wrote the haiku, which charmed me to no end:


typhoon gone
a scarecrow fell in battle
morning sunshine

[To read the rest, just go to Joy o' Kanji!]