The timing still escapes me, but early to mid-autumn is when many kinoko – Japanese for mushroom – literally break the ground.

Yellow cones literally breaking ground.

The spectacle happens when the sizzle of Japan’s summer starts to relax, in between the falling of the chestnuts and the unmistakable ripening of the persimmons – God’s deciduous and fruity version of the Christmas tree.

Humid conditions work best for the ground sprouts, so I think the trigger is a sudden switch of sun after a rainy spell. However, it’s not a guarantee for a bountiful find at a local wooded park or even a mountain trail. But, once, we were treated to a grand one, when me and the kids decided to go biking after days of being confined to the house by lazy rainy conditions. And it was amazing!

A mushroom greets the young bikers.

“All Fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.”

Terry Pratchett

Mushroom play

Knowing practically nothing about mushrooms, foraging was definitely out of the question, but we found a little kid’s taxonomy most enjoyable as we marveled at many outgrowths. Our discoveries were classified under the popcorn, pancake, flower, plate, melon pan (a local bread), and muffin varieties.

“Why did the mushroom go to the party? Because he was a fungi.”

Mushroom anime

As mushrooms are a staple food in Japan, it’s no surprise that it has its niche in the anime culture, and it’s not just the Super Mario enterprise.

Some anime characters grow mushrooms on their heads whenever they feel gloomy and melancholic. Dark and damp sensibly favors the mushrooms, right?

This villainous-looking mushroom could inspire a sinister anime character.

There’s even an entire anime about a family of mushrooms, aptly called The Nameko Family. It plays on the Japanese concept of “kimokawaii” – a combination of the words kimoi (gross) and kawaii (cute) – or making cute something so gross.