Their understanding of the soil means that they know how to find and befriend tiny, aggressive ‘hebo’ – black wasps. They know which are male, which are female, which are drones and which are new queens. They know from glancing at the forest floor around them and from checking the direction of the wind and the sun and from recalling the weather events of the current year, where these wasps are likely to have made their home.
‘Hebo’ live in the soil. Their name in japanese means ‘bee of the earth’, and every year in springtime hundreds of people with a great love and respect for these creatures seek out their nests while they are still small. Once found, they bring the nests back to their homes and raise them on a rich diet in order to eventually harvest and eat some, and preserve others. For every three nests harvested in autumn as the earth cools, one is left to ensure next year’s harvest, and thousands of well-fed new queens vacate their nest to hibernate over the winter, leaving behind their beautiful construction (the main nest shown in the picture, with its columns and caverns).
But back to the springtime. Finding the entrance to a springtime wasp nest is hard enough, but this is only the beginning. The nest may be as small as a ping pong ball, and the entrance tunnel may be several inches long. And the nest itself is fragile and papery; the soil itself is its main source of protection. The next task, then, is to feel your way into the soil, through the tunnel and any tributaries, and to carefully dig out the nest without harming the wasps.
Unfortunately this wasn’t to be – I think he knew this, and was voicing his dreams in full knowledge of their fragility, something that isn't easy – and he passed away from a very aggressive and swift cancer in April, when the wasps had barely emerged from their hibernation.
Thanks to Mr Ando I was able to see the world from a wasp’s eye view, and with this image I invite you to do the same.