FOREWORD by Sachiko Nakamichi

August 2021

End of summer, when kikyou ききょうflowers are in bloom.

I spent a few days with my husband in the Karuizawa 軽井沢highlands, surrounded by nature. Once at dusk we lit senkou hanabi 線香花火, a tiny sparkler that you hold in your hands. When you light it, the magic happens right in front of you – that is why children may like senkou hanabi more than the grand fireworks far up in the sky.  Japanese children play with senkou hanabi in summer; my sons did when they were little… But their childhood is now gone.

And so we stood, my husband and I, in the natural setting of the Karuizawa highlands, holding senkou hanabi in our hands – the first time after almost 10 years – summer was turning into autumn, the day into the night.

I watched sparks springing and dancing in the air before disappearing into the darkness.  My body and soul sensed the ephemeral beauty all around: I appreciated it, and let it all go. The Japanese way of acceptance, I thought. You find it everywhere, even in a senkou hanabi whose sparks last only ten seconds.

Indeed, this is how Japanese describe the life of a senkou hanabi:

a tiny bud,
a bunch of pine needles,
weeping branches of a willow tree,
scattered petals of a chrysanthemum…
It starts as a silent bud ready to bloom. Then, suddenly, a crackling sound: beams of light as long and thin as pine needles burst out in all directions. Gradually, there is silence: and, sparks fall down like weeping branches of a willow tree; they then become thinner, softer and longer, falling gently like chrysanthemum petals.