When fall approaches, my childhood memory of harvesting rice always makes me want to go back to the time when we did much more with nature. As my parents work on the field, my brother and I were running around, try to catch dragonflies. There were literally hundreds of them flying in the sky and that was just natural view to us in fall.
Some people might say Japanese are the world’s most ardent fans of insect. The ones we like best are butterfly, dragonfly and firefly. Dragonflies live in water in larval stage and Japan has more than enough water in rice fields, rivers and creaks for them to develop. It is amazing to know that there are almost 190 species of dragonflies in Japan and the number of dragonflies you can see is amazing, especially in late summer to fall when it is time for field crop to be harvested. As history shows, we have enjoyed having dragonflies part of our life. The history goes all the way back to Yayoi Period (300 BC to 300 AD) that the ceremonial bells made from bronze have decorated with primitive drawings of dragonflies.
Dragonflies were considered as Kachi-mushi (Victory insects), which brings good luck. Warrior’s helmets, family crests and many other items were decorated with this lucky insects design.
Dragonfly design also appears in pottery, dishes, wall paper, fabric and off course Sashiko and quilt designs. There is a Sashiko Sampler with dragonfly SC-0041 in Mustard and Navy color.
There are many folk songs passed down since 12th century have dragonfly in theme. One of the most famous song is called Aka-tombo (Red dragonfly), which was composed in 1921. Japanese children have been catching them for so many centuries that children observe the insects carefully, discover their natural behavior and come up with ways to capture them.
We don’t see many dragonflies anymore because of environmental degradation. We don’t see many children chasing after dragonflies anymore either due to decrease of the number of the insect and the change of children’s life style. But the insect still remain as one of the most loved motifs in many area of our culture.