JAPAN: Pan? Patchi? Pop?

Some said it sounded like "pon!" Some believed it was more like "pan!" Others claimed that "pitchi" or "patchi" or even "zuboo" best described the sound, while others were willing to swear it was a whispered "pussu" as dainty as the beat of a butterfly's wings. Whatever the sound, it was certain that it took a sharp ear to hear it. But sharp ears were bent to catch it: last week, as they had each summer for upwards of two centuries, Japan's perceptive poets and philosophers listened more carefully than ever for the soft explosion of opening lotus blossoms.*

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