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Wisteria, the flower of early summer

I love the wisteria that scatter
At the brush of a cuckoo's wing;
I pluck the petals off and tuck them in my sleeves –
If they stain, they stain.

I love wisteria, too: the languid flowers, the tranquil colour, the sweet fragrance. It's the perfect flower for early summer: dreamy, soft and subtle, redolent with promise.

The wisteria trellis at Kameido Tenjin

This year I didn't get a chance to visit the truly famous wisteria, but I've written about some of them before:

the 1200-year-old wisteria at Fujino Ushijima
the 200-year-old youngster at Hisaizu Jinja
the giant at Ashikaga

Due to a crazy work schedule that I've mentioned ad tedium, I had to limit myself to humble locals, but I could still take a few photos that I'll happily share with you.

The wisteria trellis at Hie Jinja

First, some wisteria ( fuji in Japanese) folklore, taken from Sumiko Enbutsu's book A Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo
Wisteria was planted (in ancient Kyoto) in the inner palace where the emperor's consorts and ladies-in-waiting lived. Fujiwara no Shōshi, who became Empress Ichijō in the year 1000, was called "Fujitsubo" because of the wisteria in her courtyard. In the eleventh-century The Tale of Genji, her nickname was given to the most ideal of Prince Genji's beloved ladies. The author, Murasaki Shikibu, whose own name means "Lady Purple", was a lady-in-waiting to the real Lady Fujitsubo. 
The powerful Fujiwara family was at the apex of court society in old Kyoto. The family name means literally "wisteria field", so the flower was highly regarded and was carefully protected at the great Kasuga Taisha shrine dedicated to the family's guardian deity. A flowering branch of wisteria was an elegant gift, often accompanying a love poem … 
Sei Shōnagon, a contemporary of Lady Murasaki, also praises wisteria in her celebrated work The Pillow Book, citing "long flowering branches of beautifully coloured wisteria entwined about a pine tree" in her list of "Splendid Things".
Kameido Tenjin

The plant is also the central theme of a famous kabuki dance called Fuji Musume or "Wisteria Girl". It doesn't really tell a story: it's simply a dance depicting unrequited love. Not that there's anything simple about love and longing, but anyway. Read more about it here and here, and watch a video here.

Again I quote from A Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo: 
A highlight of the dance is a scene in which Fuji Musume gets tipsy and walks with a tottering gait … The performance derives from the widespread belief that wisteria loves sake … Gardeners treat their wisteria after flowering to a glassful or two poured over the roots, with wishes for good blooms in the next season.
Sorry that I'm stealing so much information directly! Normally I research more resources and rewrite more thoroughly, but this summer? No. I have to resort to shortcuts.

This year I could only visit three spots, but here we go:

Kameido Tenjin
If you're a regular reader – thank you! – you've probably noticed that this is one of my favourite haunts. It's probably most famous for its wisteria trellis, and this year again it didn't disappoint.

Kameido Tenjin

Now do you see why I love Kameido Tenjin? Sky Tree! Wheee!

Kameido Tenjin

One of the two famous drum bridges at Kameido Tenjin

The Japanese garden Ninomaru in the Tokyo Imperial Palace East Garden is famous mostly for its azaleas, but it also has a small, relatively rare white wisteria trellis.

White wisteria in Ninomaru




Hie Jinja
I really have to write a full post about Hie Jinja, one of the oldest and most important in Tokyo, but for now, let's linger under the wisteria trellis in the main courtyard. Mooi, ne? Beautiful, isn't it?

Hie Jinja

Hie Jinja

Red torii leading up to Hie Jinja


I love your comments and will do my best to reply, but you may have noticed that it takes me roughly 7 weeks and 3 days to do that, or to visit your blogs, nowadays. Hang in there and bear with me. Just pretend it's Africa time, in other words, things happen very slowly. Pretend you're a wisteria. Have some sake. Wait. Grin.


I love the wisteria that scatter
At the brush of a cuckoo's wing;
I pluck the petals off and tuck them in my sleeves –
If they stain, they stain.

はろばろに 鳴く霍公鳥
立ち潜くと 羽ぶりに散らす 
藤波の 花なつかしみ 引き攀ぢて 
袖に扱入れつ 染まば染むとも

Harobaro ni naku hototogisu
Tachikuku to haburi ni chirasu
Fujinami no hana natsukashimi hikiyojite
Sode ni kokiretsu shimaba shimu tomo

The poem was writte by Ōtomo Yakamochi  大伴家持 (718-785).

Bonus photo: azaleas in Ninomaru

Azaleas in Ninomaru

Bonus photo for Lina: jogging path around the Imperial Palace

I spotted this sign in Akasaka near Hie Jinja.
I sincerely hope they mean Japanese language rather than Japanese people.
It doesn't matter that this is for dodgy oil "therapy" -- it reminds me too much
of the "whites only" notices in apartheid South Africa.
This is wrong, Japan. Even for stupid sordid oil "therapy". Don't do it.

This amused me endlessly.

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