Friday, May 7, 2010

Fuji (Wisteria floribunda)

North of Tokyo, in Koshigaya, stands a 200-year old wisteria thats twisted and turned gnarled branches have wound their way through an arbor at the Hisaizu Shrine since 1837. For a several days during Golden Week, the shrine celebrates the blooming of the wisteria by holding a festival – a group of us decided to venture out seeking the heady fragrance and beautiful grape-like clusters of blossoms while they were at their optimum.

To get to the shrine from the train station you follow along a river lined with a 500-meter long tunnel of wisteria, inspiring this group of explorer’s with the sweet fragrance wafting through the air and the blossoms gently swaying in the breeze, to keep moving forward to reach the final destination of the Hisaizu Shrine. Crossing over a lovely arched walking bridge, you enter the shrine grounds with a shimenawa rope hung at the shrine’s entrance. There is a long pathway leading to the main hall that is lined with tall dawn redwoods. I have included a picture of one of these – my fellow master gardener’s from Maryland would shudder looking at the way these trees have been amputated, an American arborists nightmare. I do not understand the philosophy behind this type of “tree surgery” but you will see this all over Japan.

We could smell the sweet aroma of the wisteria before we caught sight of it, once past the festival vendors there was the old fuji – it’s vines intertwined and reaching up and spreading out over the arbor like a huge violet-blue web. It’s pea-blossom shaped flowers, hang like many clusters of delicate grapes swaying in the breeze. There’s a lovely pond next to the arbor with a walking path, and benches under the arbor where you can sit and close your eyes and inhale the intoxicating fragrance.

After we had our fill of photos and fragrance we turned our attention to the festival food vendors. I did not feel adventurous enough that day to try the “fish on a stick” but I did sample the custard cakes that were delicious.

Wisteria is one of my favorite floral aromas, it marks the beginning of my litany of spring time fragrances that I look forward to each year. We have never lived in one place long enough for me to plant and enjoy wisteria, it can take more than seven years before the plant blooms, so for now, until this Navy gig is over and I can finally plant my own roots, I will continue on my quest to seek out wisteria and enjoy it’s sweet fragrance and the violet-blue pendulous blossoms for the brief period of time it graces us.

Till next time, sayonara.

For more information on this shrine and the festival go to:

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