After living in Japan, seeing autumn foliage in background, and plum blossoms in foreground is a confusing mix of seasons. In California, there’s a wet and a dry season, with little temperature difference from month to month. It’s odd to see both plants from 2 season regions like the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia, and also from 4 season regions.
With the temperatures still cold outside, it’s nice to see this small plum branch blooming in the kitchen.
On a cold overcast day, these white plum blossoms provide a thick sweet fragrance. It reminded me of narcissus and early spring, although we’re still in mid-winter.
Winter provides a glimpse into this small Showa-era garden. Close to the house is a plum tree in bloom. Bordering the new development are evergreen plants including bamboo and the shuro palm.
When it snows, it seems as if Tokyo is a city of black and white. Recently I posted a photo of this plum tree at night. Just as the blossoms are peaking, thick gobs of snow magnify the tree’s shape.
Leap Day, 2012.
This plum bonsai is part of a tiny but incredibly abundant garden also on the way to Nakano station. This gardener clearly knows about plants and seasons. Because almost all his plants are in pots, they can be moved around for maximum enjoyment.
In Tokyo I am getting re-adjusted to four seasons. In California there’s a wet and dry season. Oddly, in San Francisco, many dry winter days are warmer than the fog-bound summer. Tokyo’s four seasons are like the Atlantic Coast of the US. I have childhood memories of this area.
It’s been so cold in Tokyo recently that I am hibernating. Each year I look forward to seeing this plum blossom in February. You can find this tree along a pedestrian path leading to Nakano station.
Details: March 27, 2011 at Shiho ceramic studio, Suginami
I love how this extravagantly blooming plum tree is sitting outdoors at night, unprotected and unmindful of its surroundings.
[Date: March 3, 2011].
Tokyo residents and small businesses welcome the gods in temporary homes built of bamboo, pine, and plum blossoms.
I love how the best ones are hand-crafted from pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms. They are intended to be temporary homes for the Shinto gods (kami, 神様). I like the idea that you can create a temporary house for the gods to visit at new year. The three heights of the kamomastu represent heaven, humanity, and earth- in descending order. The shimekazari are smaller, with Shinto rope holding charms such as oranges, folded paper, rice straw, and ferns.
Shimekazari (標飾り) and Kadomatsu (門松) are traditional New Year’s ornaments placed on walls and on the sidewalks outside shops and homes. The city simultaneously empties of people and fills with physical connections to mountains and spirits. This year I took photos of the widest variety I could find in the areas I visit on typical days: on a car bumper, outside a sento, next to a wall of cigarette advertisements, on a busy boulevard, outside a barbershop, pachinko parlor, 24 hour convenience store, and a department store.
After the holiday, these decorations should be burned at a shrine. By mid-January, they are already a faded memory.
See more photos after the jump.
I take care of my relatives ceramic studio garden. Last year’s 5bai midori “satoyama unit,” installed during a fall typhoon, is coming back with lots of new growth. This photo shows off the yellow flowers “yamabuki”, a vigorous Japanese shrub. Sometimes you see white flowers, or multi-petalled yellow ones.
Shiho ceramic studio‘s back yard is a small l-shape raised beds. Much of it is shaded by persimmon and plum trees and the neighbors’ homes. The garden includes a volunteer shurro palm tree (しゅろ, 棕櫚) and a Japanese herb called sanshou (サンショウ) that traveled from the neighboring store’s bicycle parking lot.
A lot of what I planted at the end of last year has come back, including hydrangea, lilies of the valley, hostas, rosemary, jasmine, and a lantern flower vine that almost fully covers the chain link fence. And the giant cymbidium orchid has been blooming through April. It’s great to hear that the ceramic teachers and students are enjoying the garden.
I think the eight bags of compost helped a lot in improving the soil and make this shade garden thrive.
One plant that didn’t survive the Tokyo winter is a plant commonly called “purple princess” in San Francisco. To fill the gap left by the plant and my hope for it growing large fast and covering the cinder block wall. I brought over a kanamemochi shrub: a quick growing and very popular Tokyo shrub with distinctive red, new spring leaves. I also planted a yuzu lemon tree and a white single petal yamabuki.
The days are alternating warm and cool, but already flowering trees are making Tokyo shine with color and beauty. I am not sure what type of flowering tree this is. I think it’s a plum called “eight petal” or 八重梅 (やえうめ). It’s in full bloom along a pedestrian path in Nakano.
From a distance the tree grabs your attention, but standing under it is sublime. Here are two more images: the context in a crowded neighborhood, and hundreds of buds popping open.
On the pedestrian path leading to the JR station, this plum tree began blooming last month and is still gorgeous. The tree is planted in someone’s back yard, but the canopy hangs mostly over the public right of way.