In April many kinds of flowers begin to bloom. Some attract insects and other small creatures that become increasingly numerous and active as the days get warmer.

April 1 – Neighborhood flowers in rain

April 2020 began with light intermittent rain. It was dark and gloomy, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to photograph flowers in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, many flowers had closed, drooped down to the ground, or even fallen in the rain.

Hardenbergia violacea (vine lilac, ハーデンベルギア)
Hardenbergia violacea (vine lilac, ハーデンベルギア) in Takano, Ritto City
Cherry blossoms (桜)
Cherry blossoms (桜) along the path to Takano Shrine in Ritto City
Cherry blossoms (桜)
Cherry blossoms (桜) along the path to Takano Shrine in Ritto City
Pink tulip
Pink tulip in Takano, Ritto City

April 3 – Bike ride to Yasu City

On April 3rd I took a short late-afternoon bike ride to Yasu City, where the Oyamakawa (大山川) riverbank is lined with cherry trees and flowers bloom in many locations.

Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa (大山川)

Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa in Yasu City
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa in Yasu City
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa in Yasu City
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa in Yasu City
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along Oyamakawa in Yasu City
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms in Omifuji, Yasu City, with Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Snowflakes and visitors

As flowers begin to bloom in spring, a variety of insects soon appear. On April 3rd I was happy to see that a patch of snowflakes had attracted some visitors, including a small white butterfly and a seven-spotted ladybug.

Snowflake flowers
Snowflakes in Omifuji, Yasu City
Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ)
Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae, モンシロチョウ) on a snowflake
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ) on a snowflake
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ) on a snowflake

Vicia sativa near home

One of my favorite wildflowers is Vicia sativa (common vetch, ヤハズエンドウ). On my way back from Yasu City just before sunset, I saw that some had bloomed along fields near my home.

Vicia sativa (common vetch, ヤハズエンドウ)
Vicia sativa (common vetch, ヤハズエンドウ)
Vicia sativa (common vetch, ヤハズエンドウ)
Vicia sativa (common vetch, ヤハズエンドウ)

April 8 – Photo walk in Ritto City

On April 8th I took a long photo walk from home through farmland and along the Yasugawa (野洲川) riverbank. Many cherry blossoms had fallen, but I saw quite a few wild flowers and some insect visitors.

Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms along the path to Takano Shrine in Ritto City
Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ)
Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui, ヒメアカタテハ)
Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys, モンキチョウ)
Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys, モンキチョウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, ナナホシテントウ)
Cherry blossoms at Deba Nogami Shrine
Cherry blossoms at Deba Nogami Shrine

April 9 – Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens

One of my favorite places to visit is the Kusatsu Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森), a 25-minute drive from home to Lake Biwa. The Botanical Gardens are very well maintained, and the staff are helpful and full of knowledge. Frankly, I’m more interested in natural wild flowers than in many of their displays of potted plants and decorations made with flowers, but the variety and beauty of plants continue to draw my wife and me back often. A very inexpensive annual pass for local senior residents makes it even more attractive.

Upper pond and cherry blossoms at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens
Upper pond and cherry blossoms at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens
Upper pond and cherry blossoms at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens
Upper pond and cherry blossoms at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens
Pink cherry blossoms
Pink cherry blossoms
Mitsuba azaleas (Rhododendron dilatatum, ミツバツツジ)
Mitsuba azaleas (Rhododendron dilatatum, ミツバツツジ)
Mitsuba azaleas (Rhododendron dilatatum, ミツバツツジ)
Mitsuba azaleas (Rhododendron dilatatum, ミツバツツジ)
Iris japonica (シャガ)
Iris japonica (シャガ)
Nemophila menziesii 'Insignis Blue' flowers (baby blue eyes, ネモフィラ 'イニシングブルー')
Nemophila menziesii ‘Insignis Blue’ flowers (baby blue eyes, ネモフィラ ‘イニシングブルー’)
Nemophila menziesii 'Insignis Blue' flowers (baby blue eyes, ネモフィラ 'イニシングブルー')
Nemophila menziesii ‘Insignis Blue’ flowers (baby blue eyes, ネモフィラ ‘イニシングブルー’)
Spider on a Nemophila menziesii 'Insignis Blue' flower (baby blue eyes)
Small spider on a Nemophila menziesii ‘Insignis Blue’ flower

Rural life, COVID-19, and nature photogaphy

The current situation with COVID-19 has cast a dark sense of danger and gloom over the world, but out in the countryside, where people are not in close contact, rural life must go on. Agriculture cannot wait for pandemics to end. Farmers are now cultivating fields that will soon become rice paddies. The only precautions I’ve seen are that people wear masks and sometimes stand a little more apart from each other than normal.

I am not a farmer but, along with rural walkers, dog walkers, joggers, and wild herb gatherers, I move in similar unpopulated spaces between fields, in large parks, on mountain paths, and along riverbanks. I very rarely encounter other people, and when I do we talk at a good distance of 3-5 meters if we talk at all. The other day I saw a lady taking a fast walk, approaching along the same route I was on. We would pass at least 5 meters from each other, but she pulled out a mask and put it on at about 30-40 meters away. Out of respect I did the same with a mask I had in my jacket pocket, and we passed with little nods to each other. That’s a new polite style of rural greeting, I guess.

So far COVID-19 has not changed my motivation or opportunities to share my perceptions of nature and rural life in Japan. Since I walk or cycle nearly everywhere, I can practice outdoor photography without human contact. Fortunately, we have no official restrictions on movement, so I’m looking forward to seeing more flower and insects as the days become warmer.

See more photos in my Flickr photostream or one of my albums.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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