Kokuu, Makkou

24 Solar Term : KOKUU (from about 20th April to 4th May)

** Please refer Kokuu, Shokou.

72 Seasons : MAKKOU – “Botan hana-saku” (from about 30th April to 4th May)

kokuu_makkou‘Golden Week’, the early-May holiday week in Japan is one of the best season to go outside as the weather, neither too hot nor too cold. Out in the nature is at its best maybe, as the flowers are out in splendid multicolour bloom. You would find many carrying their vaunted single lens reflex cameras, some with tripods, trying to catch the best moment of the spring nature. Even those who don’t carry their special equipments would be natural taking more photos than they normally do with their smart phone cameras, posting their pictures on their SNS sites with beautiful nature which could be seen a lot at this time of the year.

In Japan, we have a four-character (kanjiW) idiom as ‘Hyakka-ryoran / 百花繚乱’ simply meaning hundreds of flowers blooming in profusion, expanding a gorgeous vision and an exquisite meaning as using the flowers as metaphor of outstanding talented people or beautiful women gathering in one scene. We think this idiom belongs to this time of the season if we were to point out the first meaning not because that there are many flowers out in bloom but ‘Botan’, the tree peony is at the bloom.

Burgundy peony looks indeed noble… ‘Kaou / 花王’ really suits this flower.

Before looking over this season’s phrase, let us write a little more on the comparison of women and the flower in Japan. Like in other countries, Japan has been using flowers as metaphor of beautiful or handsome women ever since the ancient ages of gods as you would notice from the the goddess name, Konohanasakuya-himeW, meaning of a bloom of the flower tree.

Ideal classical Japanese women image peonies.

There are many metaphor of the beauties as flowers but among them should be one of the most famous phrase as;

立てば芍薬 / Tateba Shakuyaku,
座れば牡丹 / suwareba Botan,
歩く姿は百合の花 / aruku sugata-ha Yuri-no-hana.

When standing, like as though the peony.
While seated, like the tree peony.
The way she walks is like the flower of the lily.


These are ‘Shakuyaku’, not the ‘tree peonies’ but just ‘peonies’. They look so alike, hard to tell the difference….

Amongst the spring flowers in bloom, we guess that tree peonies and peonies should be the most prominent flower of all because of their flower size as well as the numbers of petals forming their large flower. The flower should have been outstanding to our ancestors as there is another name as ‘Kaou / 花王’, meaning the flower king.


Botan, the tree peony, was said to be nurtured from 6th century in China, was brought into Japan in the 8th century. The plant was nurtured as a medical plant used for resolution, stop bleeding and pain relief in the beginning, later became ornamental flowers. The first description of Botan could be read in the The Pillow BookW by Sei ShonagonW, written in Heian periodW of her observations and musings in the Imperial Court.  There exists a set or layers of colours called ‘Botan’ as below worn at this time of the year (or earlier to be trendy) in the Heian period, used for the colour coordination of Kimonos, seen either on the collar or sleeve edges of the kimonos.

‘Kasane’, a coordination of seasonal colours used in underwear kimonos so that the pile of colours show from sleeves. This Kanase is called ‘Botan’.

Kimmono of the noble in Heian period. You could see the kimonos are layered giving attractive look.


Botan of Hase Temple, Nara. Photo from yunphoto.net.

It wasn’t so long ago that tree peonies became common flower of the spring that everybody could see. In fact, it was after the Second World War that the grafting technique of the tree peonies became easy that the Botan spread in many gardens throughout Japan. Until then, Botan, the tree peonies, were unattainable flower to the commoner, treated as a precious flower, could be seen or heard in arts or literatures. You could find many drawings, embroideries, carvings or gold lacquers of Botan in Japanese arts which represents that this flower was indeed a special flower.

The differences between Botan, the tree peonies and Shakuyaku, the peonies are hard to tell as there is no apparent different words in English besides ‘tree’. What we can tell is that Botan is a tree and Shakuyaku is a grass. Moreover, Botan grows its branches and leaves in apart, on the other hand, Shakuyaku grows straight and most of them bloom after the Botan in spring.


Mobara Peony Garden in Mobara, Chiba prefecture.

Finally, back to the phrase. It’s on Botan, followed by the verb ‘hana-saku’ meaning to bloom. Telling us that the Botan’s flower is blooming which you ought to see while you are here at this time of the year. We have listed the famous Botan places (some also with Shakuyaku) so do make a visit!

88th Night (HACHI-JU HACHI YA)

When talking about the number of the nights, some of you might imagine the famous comedy written by William Shakespeare but 88th Night in Japan is nothing to do with the comedy. In fact, it is the 88th day counted from Risshun which is the time when taken special attention on the late frosts. Frosts, as in the last season phrase of ‘Shimo yande nae izuru’, should already be gone by now but contrary to expectations, there still can be late frosts at night, especially near the mountains.


Tea plantation in Shizuoka where producing highest yield in Japan at the time of sprouts.

As we have been writing over and over again, Japan has been an agricultural country until the
modernization after the Meiji RestorationW where farmers, as well as landlords and castellans whose operations were depending on the tribute from the yields, had to be alert with the weather which influenced the crops of their lands. Therefore, a sudden frost at this time of the year, when people could be relieved in sunny warm weather after the harsh winter, could be forgotten, giving immense damage to the crops without protection beforehand. It was for this reason that 88th Night was noted as one of the ‘Setsu / 節’, the seasonal period to avoid the damage from the late frosts.


Fresh green tea sprouts.

The 88th Night is also said to be introduced as a phrase as, ‘crying frosts of 88th Night / 八十八夜の泣き霜’, or in the cold districts as, ‘crying frosts of 99th Night / 九十九夜の泣き霜’, expressing how the late frosts were harmful to the crops.


Picked fresh tea leaves. Photo from ‘Oyaizu Shoten Official Blog.

On the other hand, Hachiju-hachi Ya is a famous day for when the first Japanese tea leaves are picked in the year. The famous song of tea leaf pickers called ‘Cha-tsumi / 茶摘み’, meaning tea leaf picking, mention the Hachiju-hachi Ya, giving us the idea that the picking of the tea leaves start at this time of the season.

The date of the first picking differs from area to area but is set around Hachiju-hachi Ya. Tea leaves are grown almost in every prefectures of Japan producing over 80,000 tons a year. The first picked leaves refined coming out into the market  few weeks after hachiju-hachi Ya with the name of ‘Shin-cha / 新茶’, meaning new tea, valued as ‘lucky tea’ as the Japanese believe that eating or drinking the first food of the year would prolong one’s life.


Children enjoy tea leaf-picking in classical ‘Cha-tsumi’ outifit. You could enjoy dressing up in it and pick the tea leaves too when in season. For more information, clic this photo credit (though in Japanese…). Photo from ‘Shizu-tabi‘, a site by Shizuoka prefecture introducing hands-on sightseeing.

If you happen to be in Japan at this time of the year, it would be interesting for you to compare the ordinal Japanese tea and ‘Shin-cha’ which is the season’s exclusive.  Or , spend your time with hands-on sightseeing of ‘Cha-tsumi’!

Specific Peony Garden Information

Temples and Gardens for Peonies


RImpa peony pattern.

  • Information :

    Numbers of varieties and plants
    HokkaidoKawanishi Botan En2 Kagetsu-cho, Kitami-shi, Hokkaido.1,000 peonies
    AomoriHase Botan En3 Aza Hase, Oaza Omukai, Nanbu-cho, Sannohe-gun, Aomori.130 varieties, 8,000 plants
    IwateHanaizumi Flower World
    (Hana to Izumi no Kouen)
    159-1 Aza Shimomiyazawa, Hanaizumi-cho Oimatsu, Ichinoseki-sho, Iwate.306 varieties, 5,000 plants
    MiyagiKanahebisui-jinja7 Aza Suijin, Miiroyoshi, Iwanuma-shi, Miyagi100 varieties, 1,300 plants
    FukushimaSukagawa Botan En80-1 Botanen, Sukagawa-shi, Fukushima.290 varieties, 7,000 plants
    IbarakiIbaraki Botanical Garden
    (Ibaraki-ken Shokubutsu-en)
    4589 To, Naka-shi, Ibaraki.70 varieties
    Flower Park Ibaraki
    (Ibaraki-ken Flower Park)
    200 Shimoaoyagi, Ishioka-shi, Ibaraki.90 varieties, 3,500 plants
    Tsukuba Peony Garden
    (Tsukuba Botan En)
    500 Wakaguri, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki.765 varieties, +10,000 plants
    TochigiDaiou Temple
    450 Kutobanetamachi, Otawara-shi, Tochigi.300 plants
    Igashira Park
    (Igashira Kouen)
    99 Shimokomoriya, Mooka-shi, Tochigi.60 varieties
    Komyo Temple
    1717 Tajima-cho, Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi.250 plants
    Myoun Temple
    665 Shiobara, Nasushiobara-shi, Tochigi.3,000 plants
    GunmaKano Botan En2315 Hanayama-cho, Tatebayashi-shi, Gunma.250 varieties, 6,000 plants
    Ryushin Temple
    1051 Nikkawa, Niisato-cho, Kiryu-shi, Gunma.2,500 plants
    Daikei Temple
    1000 Nitta One-cho, Ota-shi, Gunma.150 varieties, 3,000 plants
    SaitamaHigashimatsuyama Botan En1148-1 Oaza Otani, Higashimatsuyama-shi, Saitama.150 varieties, 5,600 plants
    Renko Temple
    798-1 Oaza Yodo, Yoriimachi, Osato-gun, Saitama. 1,000 plants
    Rygan Temple
    1420 Tekise, Honjo-shi, Saitama. 150 varieties, 1,500 plants
    Soujiin2944 Nanburyotsuji, Midori-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama.500 plants
    Tamonin1501 Nakatomi, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama.23 varieties, 400 plants
    Yakyu Inari Jinja2-5-14 Yakyu-cho, Higashimatsuyama-shi, Saitama.50 varieties, 1,300 plants
    ChibaMobara Peony Garden
    (Mobara Botan En)
    210 Yamasaki, Mobara-shi, Chiba.300 varieties, 3,000 plants
    Shimizu Kouen – Hana Fantasia906 Shimizu, Noda-shi, Chiba.2,000 plants
    TokyoUeno Toshogu9-88 Ueno Kouen, Taito-ku, Tokyo.290 varieties, 3,800 plants
    Nishiarai Daishi1-15-1 Nishiarai, Adachi-ku, Tokyo.100 varieties, 4,500 plants
    Furuishibagawa Shinsui Kouen1-9 Botan, Koto-ku, Tokyo.50 varieties, 360 plants
    Zenjouin2-28-2 Numabukuro,Nakano-ku, Tokyo.1,000 plants
    Yakuoin4-8-2 Shimoochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.120 varieties, 1,000 plants
    Hamarikyu Onshi TeienHamarikyu Teien, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.57 varieties, 1,200 plants
    Machida Botan En2274-1 Nozuta-machi, Machida-shi, Tokyo.170 varieties, 1,100 plants
    Showa Kinen Park
    (Showa Kinen Kouen)
    3173 Midori-cho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo.40 varieties
    Oido Kouen2 Chome, Shinmachi, Oume-shi, Tokyo.13 varieties, 500 plants
    KanagawaHase Temple
    3-11-2 Hase, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa.150 varieties, 7,000 plants
    Tsurugaoka Hachimangu2-4-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa.2,000 plants
    Flower Center Ofuna Botanical Garden
    (Ofuna Shokubutsu En
    1018 Okamoto, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa.120 varieties, 1,000 plants
    NiigataGosen-shi Higashi Kouen3551-11 Akomi, Gosen-shi, Niigata.120 varieties, 5,000 plants
    Chokoku Temple
    13 Hase, Sado-shi, Niigata.30 varieties, 1,000 plants
    FukuiEchizen-no-Sato, Ajimano En55-1 Yokawa-cho, Echizen-shi, Fukui. 340 plants
    YamanashiKabuki Bunka Kouen3158 Ueno, Ishikawa-misato-cho, Nishiyatsushiro-gun, Yamanashi.4,000 plants
    NaganoGenko Temple
    681 Omura, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano.120 varieties, 1,250 plants
    Onsho Temple
    2010 Yamamuro, Takato-machi, Ina-shi, Nagano.170 varieties, 2,000 plants
    Zensan Temple
    300 Maeyama, Ueda-shi, Nagano.200 varieties, 2,000 plants
    Seisui Temple
    1949 Wakahohoshina, Nagano-shi, Nagano.60 varieties, 400 plants
    GifuKeisho Temple
    579 Ohara, Minami-cho, Gujo-shi, Gifu.150 varieties, 2,000 plants
    Ocha-yashiki AtoAkasaka-cho, Ogaki-shi, Gifu.80 varieties, 800 plants
    (Zen Temple)
    2915-1 Kuno, Fukuroi-shi, Shizuoka.60 varieties, 2,000 plants
    AichiTokugawa En1001 Tokugawa-cho, Higashi-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi.55 varieties, 1,000 plants
    MieInabe-shi Nogyo Kouen3071 Kanae, Fujiwara-cho, Inabe-shi, Mie.35 varieties, 5,000 plants
    Choden Temple
    427 Asada-cho, Matsuzaka-shi, Mie.20 varieties, 500 plants
    ShigaSoji Temple
    708 Miyashi-cho, Nagahama-shi, Shiga.80 varieties, 1,000 plants
    Hino Daria En2198 Kaigake, Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga.1,000 plants
    KyotoOtokuni Temple
    3-14-7 Imazato, Nagaokakyo-shi, Kyoto.30 varieties, 2,000 plants
    OsakaNagai Botanical Garden
    (Nagai Shokubutsu En)
    1-23 Nagai-kouen, Shimiyoshi-ku, Osaka.80 varieties, 1,800 plants
    Osaka Prefectual Flower Garden
    (Hana-no-bunka Kouen)
    2292-1 Tako, Kawachinagano-shi, Okasa.270 varieties, 1,200 plants
    HyogoSanda Eitakuji Shobu En82-3 Eitakuji, Sanda-shi, Hyogo.2,000 plants
    Takarazuka Nagatani Botan En29 Aza Monbata, Nagatani, Takarazuka-shi, Hyogo.100 varieties, 2,600 plants
    Botan Temple, Manshoin2312 Otomi, Kamigori-cho, Ako-gun, Hyogo.100 varieties, 1,000 plants
    Ryukoku Temple
    22 Arakawa, Hidaka-cho, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo.70 varieties, 1,000 plants
    Sen-hime Botan En68 Honmachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo.
    ** within Himeji Castle Site
    2,000 plants
    Suma Rikyu Park
    (Suma Rikyu Kouen)
    1-1 Higashi Suma, Suma-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo.300 plants
    Yakushiin1636 Nishioka, Uozumi-cho, Akashi-shi, Hyogo.30 varieties, 2,000 plants
    NaraHase Temple
    731-1 Hase, Sakurai-shi, Nara.150 varieties, 7,000 plants
    Kongo Temple
    3-2-14 Nohara-nishi, Gojo-shi, Nara.100 varieties, 1,500 plants
    Sekko Temple
    387 Someno, Katsuragi-shi, Nara.420 varieties, 2,700 plants
    Taima Temple
    1263 Taima, Katsuragi-shi, Nara.
    ** more infromation
    150 varieties, 7,000 plants
    Tsubosaka Temple
    3 Tsubosaka, Takatyori-cho, Takaichi-gun, Nara.3,000 plants
    ShimaneYushi En1260-2 Hanyu, Yatsuka-cho, Matsue-shi, Shimane.250 varieties, 7.000 plants
    Chugoku Botan En1077 Nyuko, Yatsuka-cho, Matsue-shi, Shimane.112 varieties, 10,000 plants
    Akana Kanko Botan En41648-1 Akana, Iinan-cho, Iishi-gun, Shimane.70 varieties, 28,000 plants
    Kibitsu Shrine
    (Kibitsu Jinja)
    981 Kibitsu, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama.400 plants
    YamaguchiRyuzo Temple
    1750 oshiki, Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi.120 varieties, 1,500 plants
    Shizuki KouenHoriuchi, Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi.600 plants
    KagawaHotarumi Kouen4243-12 Yoshino, Mano-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa.52 varieties, 1,000 plants
    FukuokaShiranoe Shokubutsu Kouen2 Shiranoe, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka.80 varieties, 1,000 plants
    Hakozakigu, Shinen Hana Teien1-22-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka.130 varieties, 2,500 plants
    Shimizu-yama Botan En1115 Motoyoshi, Setaka-machi, Miyama-shi, Fukuoka.30 varieties, 2,500 plants
    SagaBotan-to-Midori no Oka373-39 Magarigawa, Hizen-cho, Karatsu-shi, Saga.80 varieties, 2,500 plants



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