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“Our house was right next to the lake. You could look out of the window and see the reeds waving in the wind and listen to the reed warblers. It was a nuisance having to haul buckets of lake-water for the bath all the way into the house, so from April to November we used to leave the tub by the lake. A little roof of plaited reeds was put up over it to keep the rain off.”

From “Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan” by Dr. Jun’ichi Saga (Kodansha International)

Igusa (reeds) are one of those common waterside plants that we take for granted, but a closer look reveals attractive clusters of spiky flowers and seeds. Sweet-smelling tatami mats are woven from just such simple reeds, and though many are now imported from China, we can still see deep-green rows of perfectly straight reeds cultivated in the countryside of Okayama.