The science of bubbles is in the surface tension. As you know from running water into a washbasin, adding even a bit of soap stabilizes the bubbles, making them larger and longer lasting. The iridescent colors are caused by interfering light waves, determined by the thickness of the film—like the refraction of light in an oil slick. From ancient Roman times, bubbles symbolized the fragile transience of life (from the Latin, homo bullas='man is a bubble'). In the 17th century, paintings of children with bubble pipes became popular, though it was with the development of skin-sensitive soaps in the late 18th century that bubbles became a true children's toy.
Similarly in Japan, the word for soap derives from Portuguese and bubble blowing became popular in the 18th century. Traditionally, shabondama, soap bubbles, have been a kigo for spring, though the modern saijiki has reclassified them into a cross-seasonal category. At the World Kigo project, Gabi Greve has collected a delightful page of resources, images and haiku, where she writes of the itinerant peddlers with their distinctive headgear who would appear each spring selling bubble makers to children. Supposedly, bubble blowers remain the largest selling toy worldwide.
In December when I announced that 'play' would be the June Contemporary Haiga challenge, I was planning to theme the issue around the games that children play at recess as the weather warms and the school year draws to a close. At some point, perhaps as I was preparing my ideas for the flash banner on the entry page, art took over and my bouncing playground ball became an evanescent trail of soap bubbles.
Thus, welcome to our Bubble Wand issue! Many thanks once again to our team of resident artists, Hiromi, Shisen, Mary and Choshi, as well as to all our readers and participants.
With all our best wishes for the forthcoming summer solstice,