Friday, May 7, 2010

Wisteria Season

Everything is in bloom. The azaelas line the sidewalks with bursts of color, the dogwoods bloom pink and white, and now the wisteria are here. All this festivity made me decide it was time to try one of the flower walks in Sumiko Enbutsu's A Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo at long last. Yesterday, I went to find the Sennen no Fuji (the 1,000-year-old wisteria vine) at Kokuryo jinja.

Wisteria (called Fuji) seems to be at its height at the moment. A house near the farm has a small trellised one tucked in their tiny garden that has been blooming beautifully now for a few days, and on our hike the blossoms were everywhere. Native to China, Japan, and America, wisteria has been long-admired by Japanese nobility weaving itself (literally) into clothing, The Tale of Genji (Lady Fujitsubo, no less) as well as inspiring festivals, handmade papers, paintings, and Kabuki dances with its fragrant blossoms.

After a quick run to the farm and garden to check on my squash seedlings, I hopped on my bike and headed south. A first stop at Jindai Botanical Gardens to check out the wisteria walk was well worth it. I sat on one of the benches while bees and other visitors buzzed about admiring the blooms - white, lavender, and deep purple - hanging from the sturdy brick and wire trellis over our heads. Emanating from thick trunks some swung meter long trains in the wind while others looked more like frilly bunches of grapes. More Fuji admirers wandered in the nearby beds where other varieties in a myriad of colors and shapes (a lovely double-blossom variety called I believe, Black Dragon, was among these) to sniff and photograph.

Twenty minutes or so south of Jindai by bike is Kokuryo Jinja. A tiny shrine about a ten minute walk north of Fuda Station (turn right at Shimoda if coming from the station) Kokuryo's courtyard is home to the One Thousand Year Old Fuji. (At the moment the shrine website offers daily updates on the status of the vine. I can't help but wonder if it had a blog, what would this ancient vine have to say?) The area is absolutely covered by Fuji blooms and branches. A steady stream of people came to take pictures, have their picture taken - singly or in groups - pray, or simply sit on a bench while the breeze covered the ground with lavender. I'm still quite happily finding wisteria blooms in my hair this morning.

A Few Thoughts
To get to Kokuryo Jinja without the book (although I do recommend getting it) use this map. Be sure to turn right at the second big intersection if coming from the station. On-going construction has changed the landscape a bit since publishing.

To plant wisteria, please keep in mind that it can be quite invasive. Plant a variety native to America and your region. If wisteria won't work in your neck of the woods, contact a local Wild Ones chapter and get ideas for a great alternative.

Photo Notes
The top photo shows the central vine of Sennen no Fuji. The bark is a bit rough to the touch, and I would say it has something close to a two foot radius.

The second photo shows one of the courtyard lanterns with a faded Fuji motif along with some of the supports in place for the vines. Thick I-beams, heavy gauge wire netting, along with metal posts help hold the weight of the branches.

The third photo is one of the "side shoots" with one of the tori gates in the background. This was a popular spot for pictures.

The last photo is from the Wisteria Walk at Jindai Botanical Park. I admit to not quite believing in blossoms nearly a meter in length, but erased all doubt. I could have watched them for hours.


Faye said...

Joan - these are beautiful - thank you for sharing!

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Hi Faye, Thanks for reading! It was a lovely day, and definitely a highlight of my time here. There's always something new, almost literally, around every corner in Japan.

Anjuli said...

loved the pictures- oh so beautiful. I especially loved the thought of "if this vine had a blog" what an incredible idea to base a book on...can you just picture it?...the vine looking down over the lovers who have passed by...the fights...the daily life happening all around...the prayers made at the shrine...etc etc...

The thought of Wisteria always reminds me of "Madam Butterfly"