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)
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Information :PrefecturesPlaceAddressNumbers of varieties and plants
Hokkaido Kawanishi Botan En 2 Kagetsu-cho, Kitami-shi, Hokkaido. 1,000 peonies Aomori Hase Botan En 3 Aza Hase, Oaza Omukai, Nanbu-cho, Sannohe-gun, Aomori. 130 varieties, 8,000 plants Iwate Hanaizumi Flower World
(Hana to Izumi no Kouen)
159-1 Aza Shimomiyazawa, Hanaizumi-cho Oimatsu, Ichinoseki-sho, Iwate. 306 varieties, 5,000 plants Miyagi Kanahebisui-jinja 7 Aza Suijin, Miiroyoshi, Iwanuma-shi, Miyagi 100 varieties, 1,300 plants Fukushima Sukagawa Botan En 80-1 Botanen, Sukagawa-shi, Fukushima. 290 varieties, 7,000 plants Ibaraki Ibaraki Botanical Garden
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 Tochigi Daiou Temple
450 Kutobanetamachi, Otawara-shi, Tochigi. 300 plants Igashira Park
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 Gunma Kano Botan En 2315 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 Saitama Higashimatsuyama Botan En 1148-1 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 Soujiin 2944 Nanburyotsuji, Midori-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama. 500 plants Tamonin 1501 Nakatomi, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama. 23 varieties, 400 plants Yakyu Inari Jinja 2-5-14 Yakyu-cho, Higashimatsuyama-shi, Saitama. 50 varieties, 1,300 plants Chiba Mobara Peony Garden
(Mobara Botan En)
210 Yamasaki, Mobara-shi, Chiba. 300 varieties, 3,000 plants Shimizu Kouen – Hana Fantasia 906 Shimizu, Noda-shi, Chiba. 2,000 plants Tokyo Ueno Toshogu 9-88 Ueno Kouen, Taito-ku, Tokyo. 290 varieties, 3,800 plants Nishiarai Daishi 1-15-1 Nishiarai, Adachi-ku, Tokyo. 100 varieties, 4,500 plants Furuishibagawa Shinsui Kouen 1-9 Botan, Koto-ku, Tokyo. 50 varieties, 360 plants Zenjouin 2-28-2 Numabukuro,Nakano-ku, Tokyo. 1,000 plants Yakuoin 4-8-2 Shimoochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. 120 varieties, 1,000 plants Hamarikyu Onshi Teien Hamarikyu Teien, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. 57 varieties, 1,200 plants Machida Botan En 2274-1 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 Kouen 2 Chome, Shinmachi, Oume-shi, Tokyo. 13 varieties, 500 plants Kanagawa Hase Temple
3-11-2 Hase, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa. 150 varieties, 7,000 plants Tsurugaoka Hachimangu 2-4-31 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 Niigata Gosen-shi Higashi Kouen 3551-11 Akomi, Gosen-shi, Niigata. 120 varieties, 5,000 plants Chokoku Temple
13 Hase, Sado-shi, Niigata. 30 varieties, 1,000 plants Fukui Echizen-no-Sato, Ajimano En 55-1 Yokawa-cho, Echizen-shi, Fukui. 340 plants Yamanashi Kabuki Bunka Kouen 3158 Ueno, Ishikawa-misato-cho, Nishiyatsushiro-gun, Yamanashi. 4,000 plants Nagano Genko 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 Gifu Keisho Temple
579 Ohara, Minami-cho, Gujo-shi, Gifu. 150 varieties, 2,000 plants Ocha-yashiki Ato Akasaka-cho, Ogaki-shi, Gifu. 80 varieties, 800 plants Shizuoka Kasuisai
2915-1 Kuno, Fukuroi-shi, Shizuoka. 60 varieties, 2,000 plants Aichi Tokugawa En 1001 Tokugawa-cho, Higashi-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi. 55 varieties, 1,000 plants Mie Inabe-shi Nogyo Kouen 3071 Kanae, Fujiwara-cho, Inabe-shi, Mie. 35 varieties, 5,000 plants Choden Temple
427 Asada-cho, Matsuzaka-shi, Mie. 20 varieties, 500 plants Shiga Soji Temple
708 Miyashi-cho, Nagahama-shi, Shiga. 80 varieties, 1,000 plants Hino Daria En 2198 Kaigake, Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga. 1,000 plants Kyoto Otokuni Temple
3-14-7 Imazato, Nagaokakyo-shi, Kyoto. 30 varieties, 2,000 plants Osaka Nagai Botanical Garden
(Nagai Shokubutsu En)
1-23 Nagai-kouen, Shimiyoshi-ku, Osaka. 80 varieties, 1,800 plants Osaka Prefectual Flower Garden
2292-1 Tako, Kawachinagano-shi, Okasa. 270 varieties, 1,200 plants Hyogo Sanda Eitakuji Shobu En 82-3 Eitakuji, Sanda-shi, Hyogo. 2,000 plants Takarazuka Nagatani Botan En 29 Aza Monbata, Nagatani, Takarazuka-shi, Hyogo. 100 varieties, 2,600 plants Botan Temple, Manshoin 2312 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 En 68 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 Yakushiin 1636 Nishioka, Uozumi-cho, Akashi-shi, Hyogo. 30 varieties, 2,000 plants Nara Hase 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 Shimane Yushi En 1260-2 Hanyu, Yatsuka-cho, Matsue-shi, Shimane. 250 varieties, 7.000 plants Chugoku Botan En 1077 Nyuko, Yatsuka-cho, Matsue-shi, Shimane. 112 varieties, 10,000 plants Akana Kanko Botan En 41648-1 Akana, Iinan-cho, Iishi-gun, Shimane. 70 varieties, 28,000 plants Kibitsu Shrine
981 Kibitsu, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama. 400 plants Yamaguchi Ryuzo Temple
1750 oshiki, Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi. 120 varieties, 1,500 plants Shizuki Kouen Horiuchi, Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi. 600 plants Kagawa Hotarumi Kouen 4243-12 Yoshino, Mano-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa. 52 varieties, 1,000 plants Fukuoka Shiranoe Shokubutsu Kouen 2 Shiranoe, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka. 80 varieties, 1,000 plants Hakozakigu, Shinen Hana Teien 1-22-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka. 130 varieties, 2,500 plants Shimizu-yama Botan En 1115 Motoyoshi, Setaka-machi, Miyama-shi, Fukuoka. 30 varieties, 2,500 plants Saga Botan-to-Midori no Oka 373-39 Magarigawa, Hizen-cho, Karatsu-shi, Saga. 80 varieties, 2,500 plants