Horikiri Shobuen Gardens:

An Original Iris Matsuri

By Denis Plamondon
Photos: Sandra D’Sylva & Denis Plamondon

*

Koto, Shamisen Horikiri Shobuen Station

Koto and Shamisen at Horikiri Shobuen Station

*

As summer kicks off with flowers in full bloom, festivals to celebrate irises, azaleas and hydrangeas have been organized across Japan. On June 7th, we decided to go to Horikiri Shobuen Gardens in Tokyo and, as soon as we pulled into the train station, we discovered that most of the neighborhood had gathered for an annual iris festival! Local organizers had closed the main avenue and surrounding small sinuous streets leading to Horikiri Shobuen Gardens allowing hundreds of performers to exhibit their many talents. They had even laid down tatami (畳)mats for spectators to slip off their shoes, sit down and appreciate the show in comfort. Groups of dancers and musicians paraded one after the other for the enjoyment of their suburban audience and the few foreigners like us who had ventured into the heart of Edogawa. Wadaiko (和太鼓)and taiko (太鼓)[Japanese drums], koto (琴)and shamisen (三味線)[three-stringed Japanese banjos], and traditional dances were in abundance, with performers clad in colorful costumes, unusual hats and head bands. A few female performers in particular added a special texture to their folk dances with specially angled geitas (下駄) [wooden shoes].

*

Horikiri Shobuen Station Iris Festival

Horikiri Shobuen Station Iris Festival

*

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Wadaiko Dancers

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Wadaiko Dancers

*

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Dancers Yellow & Orange Outfit

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Dancers

*

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Traditional Dance in Streets

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen - Traditional Dances in Streets

*

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Dancers Group in Black & White Outfit

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen - Traditional Dances in the Streets

*

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen Dancers featuring Geita variation

Iris Festival Horikiri Shobuen - Dancers Featuring Geitas

*

Iris Festival in Horikiri Shobuen, Dion Shinyou Taiko Group

Iris Festival in Horikiri Shobuen - Dion Shinyou Taiko Group

*

Iris festivals (Shobu Matsuri) in Tokyo are coming to an end soon (June 1 to June 30). Flowers have already reached their peak, but will last until mid-July.  If you miss them this year, make sure to put one of these festivals on your calendar next year. Horikiri Shobuen Garden and Mizumoto Koen Park in Katsushika-ku, or Yoyogi Park, are among the favorites.

*

Iris Violet Horikiri Shobuen Gardens

Violet Iris - Horikiri Shobuen Gardens

*

The variety of these flowers is phenomenal . The beauty in their colors and the care that gardeners take to provide them with the best conditions are worth a yearly visit.  Admiration, contemplation and peace are surely the best words to express one’s state of mind when experiencing this extraordinary diversity of nature.

*

Iris Violet Unique Horikiri Shobuen

Horikiri Shobuen- Unique Iris Variety

*

For more information: see related articles in The Nihon Sun 1) Yomeiri Fune: Wedding Ships Set Sail in Japan and 2) Meiji Jingu Iris Garden

In Spanish: Flores de Iris

In Japanese: 堀切菖蒲園

*

Field of Iris in Horikiri Shobuen Gardens

Field of Irises at Horikiri Shobuen Gardens

*

Iris viewing rapidly produces a sound peace of mind.
Advertisements

Recycling Gondolas

By Denis Plamondon

Photos by Sandra D’Sylva & Denis Plamondon

Recycling the Gondolas in Nikko

Recycling Gondolas in Nikko

Once hanging in the air for sightseeing or used to climb to the top of a ski hill, old gondolas can easily be recycled for a second life. But for how long? You can find this rather odd phone booth in the village of  Nikko, located a couple of hours North West of Tokyo by train (departing from Asakusa Station).  You can’t miss it if you are on your way to the sacred bridge passing over the Daiya river. By the way, Nikko is not only famous for its temples, but also for its stunning nature, so be prepared to discover. The question is how much longer will you find any public phone around? Recently, I went to a conference at the Tokyo Hilton and I came across a series of telephone boothes with no phones inside! Could there be a third life for a gondola with a public phone in it? A museum, maybe.

Buddhism, for its part, reinvents  itself continuously – recycling is not deemed necessary. Gadgets of our time, with their short life cycle, fade away so quickly while the tradition of Buddhism seems to be more alive than ever in Nikko. If you come to Tokyo, this World Heritage asset is absolutely a “must see” destination. With an early start, you can make it in a day, although you will probably wish you did not have to sacrifice so many temples on the way. Play it wisely and spend a couple of days; it is worth the trip. The site of the first temple was founded in 766 by the monk Shodo-Shonin during the Nara period (710-792) before the capital was moved to Kyoto. With such a long history encrypted in time,  space and every dimension of its architecture and design, Nikko is probably one of the nicest places in Japan to appreciate the richness of colorful mountain temples.

The particularity of this fantastic location comes from the high level of talent invested by its conceptors in building and constructing. By hiring the best artists – sculptors, painters, carpenters, etc. –  emperors and shoguns have directly contributed to Nikko’s celebrity by providing it with the most colorful and delightful temples found in Japan. You will see very few temples with bare wood here. After the death of Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu, a mausoleum was erected at the Toshogu Shrine where ashes of the famous shogun were transported. The surrounding nature as well, embeded with such vestiges, are also of high interest.

Nikko Snake bridge over the Daiya River

Nikko Snake bridge over the Daiya River

*

Nikko Yomeimon Gate

Nikko Yomeimon Gate

Details of fine sculpture in Nikko

Details of fine wood sculpting in Nikko

*

Nikko Yakushido Tour and Lantern

Nikko Yakushido Tour and Lantern

*

Nikko Taiyu-In Tour

Nikko Taiyu-In Tour

*

Nikko Taiyu-In Kaminari-Mon

Nikko Taiyu-In Kaminari-Mon

*

Information to Nikko (Access, Facilities, World Heritage)

Information from the City of Nikko

Hanami Season in Full Bloom

by Denis Plamondon

*

Hanami inspires a young woman artist Imperial Palace Gardens Tokyo

Hanami inspires a young artist at Tokyo's Imperial Palace Gardens

*

Although the Hanami Season is a recurrent event, its splendor has no comparison.  It’s a natural phenomenon that is guided by the weather and its uncertainty.

*

Cherry Blossom in full bloom in Naka-Meguro Tokyo

Cherry blossom in full bloom in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

As accurate as the Japanese may be in their ability to predict their environment, the arrival of cherry blossom season isn’t an exact science like a train that enters a station.  Hanami (literally “flower viewing”) offers an element of surprise every year .

*

Intense blue sky with Cherry Flowers at Imperial Palace Tokyo

Blossoms against an intense blue sky Tokyo's at Imperial Palace

In central Honshu, trees are now flourishing as the temperature warms up. At the moment, this topic is on everyone’s mind and featured in most blogs, magazines, ads, and window displays.  Its popularity is not only due to its exquisiteness, but also to the customs attached – a series of gatherings and parties all over Japan.

*

Picnic among friends in Ueno Park Tokyo

Picnic among friends in Ueno Park, Tokyo

*

Picnic under a Cherry Blossom Tree In Ueno Park, Tokyo

Picnic under a cherry tree in Ueno Park, Tokyo

People from all horizons come to enjoy this special event. Office colleagues, co-workers, students, teachers, old and young, converge at their favorite spots, a gesture that is repeated year after year with the same awe and astonishment.

*

Hanami captivates after sunset Ueno Park Tokyo

Hanami captivates even after sunset in Ueno Park, Tokyo

*

Hanami season is the perfect time to meet and share a picnic with others under a cherry tree in full bloom. Often, smaller groups may be more open to invite you to join. Don’t look down on the offer; it’s a great opportunity to meet Japanese and enjoy some local cuisine, sake and beer.

*

A flow of romance under the Sakura Tress Naka-Meguro in Tokyo

A flow of romance under the sakura trees in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

*

It’s also a good period for business for local citizens living in the vicinity of these popular locations.  Many open their little restaurants and bars onto the street.  If you go along the canal in Naka-Meguro, for example, you will be welcomed by spirited vendors selling all kinds of snacks and drinks that are especially made for the event.

*

busy-selling-alcool-during-hanami-season-in-naka-meguro

*

The crowd is dense during these rare weekends, so don’t rush your way through.  Enjoy a leisurely stroll under the blossoms instead.

*

Hanami is good for Business, Naka-Meguro Tokyo

Hanami is good for business, Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

*

Waiting for the train after the Hanami visit in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

Waiting for the train after the Hanami in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

*

A river of Cherry Blossom Trees in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

A river of blossom in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

*

Hanami in a mirror in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

*

If you wish to comment, I would be delighted. Just don’t forget to go back at the top of this article to do so.