Author Nao-Cola Yamazaki is in the habit of calling common objects by names of her own invention.

For instance, a tree she can see from her apartment goes by the name of "Kotori no Naru Ki" (literally, the tree that produces small birds) because it attracts many sparrows.

The balcony where Yamazaki enjoys gardening also has names. The patch where she grows flowers is called "Nao Garden," while "Nao Farm" denotes the space dedicated to edibles such as vegetables and fruits.

In her essay titled "Beranda Engei de Kangaeta Koto" (Thoughts I've had from gardening on my balcony), Yamazaki describes the fun she's had utilizing every space--horizontal as well as vertical--on her modest-size balcony.

Whether it's their balcony or backyard, the space probably feels bigger and more lovable now while people live under virtual house arrest because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In Japanese, the numbers four and 28 together can be read as "yoi niwa" (good garden). Based on this pun, April 28 is said to be "niwa no hi" (garden day) in Japan.

Gardening sections of DIY stores are usually busy around this season. But this year, sales of gardening equipment and seedlings are said to be especially brisk.

I can fully relate to many people's instinctive desire to play with dirt, so to speak. As a matter of fact, I have bought some large planters so I can start my own "goya" (bitter gourd) farm.

I am sometimes captivated by flowers of vegetables. Lately, they are the vivid pink and reddish purple flowers of peas. Probably because I am strolling around my neighborhood more frequently than ever, I keep noticing a good number of people growing the peas in small vacant patches of land or in buckets.

Yamazaki wrote of the joy of watering her plants daily: "Every time I take my watering can to my plants, I think about each plant with renewed fascination."

There is no telling what the days ahead will bring. But we can at least picture in our minds how the plants will look in summer and autumn. And that gives us a sense of certainty about the future.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 28

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.