⟨ Wabi Sabi ⟩

The Wearable Springtime

How We Welcome Seasonal Change

Text and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

日文中有「三寒四溫」一辭,形容冬末初春時的天氣,三天寒冷,四天溫暖。不管天氣是寒是溫,踏入三月,梅花稍開,日本人便把冬衣統統收到衣櫥裡去了。即使這天氣溫不足攝氏十度,在街上也已不見披著圍巾、戴著毛線帽的人,黑與深藍都不見蹤影,換上了輕盈的卡其或淡黃。冷風吹來,他們不自覺接緊單薄的風衣,身體微抖,卻抖不掉臉上如春日般的溫暖笑容。他們對季節是如此急不及待,春色才略吐氣息,他們便匆匆將之抱入懷裡。

對於季節轉換的殷切,另一次印象深刻的,是數年前往柏林,剛好是春末夏初,乍暖還寒,陽光冒頭的日子裡,露天茶座便坐滿人,暖和時穿著短衣,寒冷時便裹著茶座提供的毛氈。暖和寒冷都是暗示著夏季已近,得好好把握。

衣服隨季節變換,衣服也讓我們看到了季節。日本俳句的句首,總先寫上季語(跟季節相關的詞語),衣服也被視為季語的一種。攏統的有春服、夏服等,確切一點的話,夏季有麻服、白襯衣、浴衣,正岡之規還寫過白西裝背心;冬季則有冬帽子、雪靴等。見浴衣二字時便想到河流上的納涼床與煙火、見雪靴時,腦內便浮現銀白的寒氣。衣櫥內再微不足道的衣服,都聯繫著大世界。

這樣說來,到了三月中,仍穿著羊毛衣、厚外套,圍著Cashmere圍脖的我,跟盛放的梅花如此格格不入,看在日本人眼裡,大概就是一個不會享受大自然變化的家伙。

In Japanese, there is an expression that describes the weather in early March as always being a combination of three chilly days followed by four warm days. Regardless of the fluctuating weather, once the Japanese see the plum blossom begins to bloom in March, they would put all their winter clothes away. Even if the temperature is still lower than ten-degree Celsius, you can rarely see people wearing a scarf or beanie. Everyone instantly switches from the dark color outfits to lighter colors like khaki or light yellow. Chilled by a cold breeze, their bodies in the thin windbreakers would be shaking, while not losing the spring-like warm smile on their face. People are so eager to welcome the seasonal change; only with a slight hint of spring coming, they already cannot wait to dive into the tenderness of the beautiful season.  

The first time I recognized the eagerness people have towards seasonal change was when I was in Berlin a few years ago. It was the time transitioning from spring to summer where it can still get a little chilly sometimes. The outdoor cafes would get so packed as soon as the sun shined. In the warmer days, people were already wearing their short sleeves, when it got a bit colder, they would wrap themselves in blankets provided by the cafes. The warmth and chilliness are both signs of the arrival of summer that no one wants to miss out.

We put on different outfits that match the season, and we see the season when looking at others’ outfits. The Japanese Haiku always begins with a line that addresses the season. One of the ways to talk about seasons in Haiku is to use clothes as a symbol. Generally speaking, there are spring outfits, summer outfits and so on. To make it more precise, summer is when you wear linen, white shirt, Yukata, or even white suit vest that Masaoka Shiki once mentioned in his Haiku; when it comes to winter, we would think of wool hat and snow boots. Yukata reminds one of the riverside terrace and firework, where snow boots are always connected to the image of a vast piece of whiteness. Every piece of clothing in the wardrobe is actually part of the bigger outside world.

Now as I come to think of it, it is already mid-March, I am such a mismatch to the blooming plum blossom with my wool sweater, winter jacket, and cashmere scarf. I guess the Japanese would see me as someone who is too insensitive to enjoy the change in nature.