Sunday, April 19, 2015

Peony gazing in Ueno Park in Tokyo




Entrance to the peony garden in Ueno Park in Tokyo.

Last week was our spring break and we spent it in Tokyo, almost exactly two years since our previous trip there. This year's spring had been warm, so all things green had developed a bit further than then. Still, we managed to catch loads of sakura trees in full bloom and even sit under then, with falling petals swirling down like snowflakes around us.

Paper parasols are used to protect the flowers from too much sun - such a typically Japanese, beautiful way to do things...


 Old ladies taking a rest in the shade.

More about the cherries later; another glorious favorite of the Japanese, the tree peony, was also just coming to full bloom in the gardens. While strolling around Ueno Park, the oldest of Tokyo's many public gardens, we popped into an area specifically dedicated to these sumptuous bloomers. It felt like we were transported back in time; the wooden signs showing the names, and the bamboo shelters and paper parasols protecting the flowers were just like in some old pictures I'd seen, depicting "peony gazing" in Japan during long gone eras.

A hand-colored 19th century photo of ladies gazing peonies in Tokyo - maybe even in the Ueno Park?
Tree peonies are thought to have arrived to Japan from China already in the 8th century, but their cultivation became widely popular first in the Edo Period (1603 to 1868). Due to this long history, they are often depicted in visual arts and poetry, representing good fortune as well as a righteous and noble spirit.


Nothing seems to have changed in the arrangement of the flowers during the last hundred years...

Mainly older Japanese ladies and gentlemen were admiring the huge peony blooms, frequently stopping to discuss their specifics along their route around the rised flower beds. Many of them took countless pictures of the flowers, with huge lenses for recording their minute details. It felt just like they'd never seen such beauties before, even if their ages clearly showed that it couldn't be the case. This was all about the peonies and nothing else; very few other plants were allowed to mingle and distract from the stars of the show.


My favorite old uncle - first, he examined the flowers carefully, then took what seemed like thousands of photos of them with his special lens...

A couple of weeks, and the fleeting glory of the peonies is over; just like the sakura, maybe the favorite flower of the Japanese, they are such a great reminder of how nothing is everlasting.




5 comments:

Sara D.B. said...

Enchanting - both the flowers themselves and their environment!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Sara, I agree - and the historic perspective is so interesting too... I love the small paper umbrellas, they are such a pretty way to protect the flowers.

Henrietta Hassinen said...

Aaaah lissää ihanaa herkkua. Ymmärrän pappaa oikein hyvin itse olen aivan samanlainen :)

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Ihana pappa olikin - aina vain yhtä kiinnostunut, vaikka ikää oli varmasti yli 80. Toivottavasti itse pääsemme noille vuosiluvuille, ja olemme vielä yhtä hyvässä kunnossa ja mielenvoimassa!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...
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