Yoko drives with one hand on the wheel and her head out the window scanning the passing flora. Having traveled these roads for years, she knows just what to look for in this third week of April. Spring is reaching towards its peak. The mountain wisteria is blooming. Most are impossibly out of reach, climbing high above us up and over the canopy of trees, but Yoko’s trained eyes spot a cluster on a nearby embankment. She pulls over, grabs her shears from the dash, and alights from the car on a mission. Jumping and tugging ensues, and she comes up with a length of vine with several violet blossoms.
Peeling back the bark at the clipped end, she swirls it around in a small bottle of sake. Talking me through each of her actions I quickly realize that Yoko holds a wealth of fascinating tidbits like this. Wisteria like a little sake in their water, branches of a certain size should be cut in half or quarters lengthwise at the base to better drink. Smaller woody stems can do with a bit of pummeling between the brunt end of her shears and the pavement before adding them to a bucket of water.