May 19, 2013

Shots of the Next Best Thing at Kyu-Furukawa Gardens

Some photos from the non-rose garden section of Kyu-Furukawa Gardens.

A green spider that is the same color as the momiji (Japanese maple) leaf it's perched on.

A black butterfly with Harley-Davidson-like flames on the tail.

Helicopter seeds on momiji trees.

Turtle again.

The Rose Garden at Kyu-Furukawa Gardens

Kyu-Furukawa Gardens again.

This visit reconfirmed my initial impression that the best thing about this park is its rose garden. Fortunately, the roses are currently in bloom, and from May 17-26, you can even go at night to do some night-viewing! (The park will be open until 9pm.)

It may not look too bad in the photos, but the park was fairly crowded, with whole tours of people coming at a time.

Barkarole, introduced 1989 by Germany. Barkarole refers to the songs sung on gondola boats. The bud is almost black, but the flower is more a vampy red.
Charles de Gaulle, introduced 1974 by France. This one is noted for its scent.

Golden Medallion, introduced in 1984 from Germany.

These are the roses I imagine the Queen of Hearts making the card soldiers paint in Alice in Wonderland. The color isn't quite right but the shape of the petals is.

Kirari ("Sparkle"), introduced 2003 by Japan.

Hatsukoi ("First Love"), introduced in 1994 by Japan. What an apt name. It looks like a literal interpretation of the expression "blush of first love". This rose is also noted for its scent.

The Queen Elizabeth rose, introduced in 1954 by the United States.

Toyama Castle Park

Matsukawa River, around a ten-minute walk from Toyama Station.

It was rainy the day I went, but the best time to visit would have been early April anyway, when the cherry blossoms bloom.

Toyama Castle, which I did not enter. It's said to have been built in the mid-16th century. The area surrounding the castle is Toyama Castle Park, and includes a library and small art museum.


It may take a bit longer than Tokyo for the cherry blossoms to bloom, but it seems there is no such delay for wisteria. In fact, during this time of the year, there doesn't seem to be much difference in temperature between Toyama and Tokyo.


Around Toyama Station

Toyama City, about 3 and a half hours away from Tokyo via bullet train. The population is 1.1 million, around one-tenth of the population of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

I don't want to be the city girl who finds everything outside Tokyo quaint, but I was very much surprised to see that the ticket gate at Toyama Station was still not automated. To be fair, I only saw the south exit. Perhaps the north exit is unmanned?

Water fountains close to Toyama Station. In a more populated city, this area would be full of kids running around. Then again, it was Sunday morning.

The city had nice manhole covers.

A nod to the snow-capped Tateyama mountains.

This version was in color.

An old-looking bathhouse.

The courtyard of the City Hall had a man-made pond filled with koi. I'm guessing the web-like mass of clear string was to prevent humans, crows, and cats from entering.

Surprisingly, Toyama also has a bike-sharing system! It's not available for tourists to use so I'm curious where the locals take these bikes. Perhaps they take the train to Toyama Station and then take bikes to get to work.

The City Hall building, which also has a conservatory tower (only about nine floors high) that allows you to a 360-degree view of the area. The day I went up, the mountains could not be seen because of the fog, and hence, the photos were spectacularly unremarkable.

The flower pots on poles gave the area a momentarily European feel.

May 18, 2013

Hokuriku Landscapes

Taken from the JR Hakutaka Express train from Toyama Station to Echigoyuzawa Station in Niigata. You can see the Tateyama Mountains all the way on a sunny day, and they are a most beautiful sight. 

Last Sunday, there were a lot of farmers out planting rice.

You would frequently see shrines and cemeteries right in the middle of a rice field.

Wisteria, snaking their way around all the trees and giving themselves away by their color. The forest must smell wonderful this time of the year.

This building looks like an old barn converted into...something. I'm guessing it's a city hall.

An old lady working on her farm.

The Joetsu-Shinkansen Max Toki from Echigoyuzawa to Tokyo Station. The shinkansen has two floors, and the first level is so low that you can only see the barrier. The second floor allows a better view...until the tunnels start up.

It was so cloudy that day, I missed out on a chance to see the mountains.

I wonder what you can see from up there?

Ikenobo Exhibition

Ikenobo, which is the name of a school of ikebana (flower arrangement). Ikenobo was established over 550 years ago, and its traditions have been passed on from teacher to student throughout the centuries. Ikenobo has various chapters around the world, and its headquarters are in Kyoto.

In early May, an exhibit titled "Origin of Ikebana: Ikenobo" was held in Mitsukoshi Department's flagship store in Nihonbashi. (According to the Ikenobo Association's official website, Ikebana's origins lie in Ikenobo, and Ikenobo itself began as a Buddhist floral offering.) There were flower arrangements by dozens of students and instructors from chapters all over Japan.

Because we are dealing with live flowers, the exhibit lasted only six days. It was quite obvious that the majority of visitors were women over 60.

One of my favorites, an arrangement containing blueberry, hydrangea, seagrape, and milkbush.

Crape-myrtle berries, lotus, and stonecrops.

The tangled plant reads "snake leek" in Japanese, but I couldn't verify its English name. Also kalanchoe and geranium.

Laburnum, bulrush, and masdevallia. 

Masdevallia were featured quite frequently in the arrangements.

 An interesting interlude before the start of a different section.

There were so many beautiful flowers, but for people like me who think of Ikebana as merely flowers stuck in vases, it was the inclusion of unexpected arrangements such as above that truly breathed life into the exhibit.