Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park and Nagoya Flower Market

Having made no firm plans for the weekend, Phil and I were fortunate to be taken out on trips on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday Professor Hirata (in charge of programme of ALPHA activities) asked Phil and I to join us for lunch at a local Japanese restaurant . The food was as delicious and as beautifully presented as always. Phil had the tempura meal, while I opted for the sashimi option and got to watch the chef cut and present the raw fish. Our dishes came with all kinds of trimmings too – rice, sea bream broth, mashed potato salad, Japanese omelette, pork and pak choi, ikanago little fish boiled down in soy sauce and sugar), daikon and pickled sea cucumber . A word to the wise though, before like me you dive into the sea cucumber with gusto, it is in fact not a vegetable but a very chewy type of ‘fish’, or rather marine creature (see close up, below). You already knew that? Just me then…

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After lunch Professor Hirata took us to the nearby Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park, which was built by the government to preserve a section of the 10km long Nojima Fault line which ripped across from Hokudan to Kobe and Osaka in the wake of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, causing mass devastation. Our visit was a timely one as that very day marked the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, which struck the southern part of Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture on January 17th 1995. Hokudan in the north of Awaji Island was the area closest to the epicentre but parts of the main island of Honshu were also badly struck. The earthquake reached a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale and caused the deaths of 6,434 people in the region, 4,600 of whom were from the heavily populated city of Kobe on Honshu Island. Two thirds of the houses in Hokudan suffered total or partial collapse, leaving over 300,000 people homeless, and overall an estimated £100 billion worth of damage was caused to houses, factories, roads and infrastructure in Japan. Comparing Hokudan today with photographs of Hokudan before the earthquake displayed in the museum was very interesting but overall it was a very sobering experience to see just how much the earth had moved and how many fatalities this had caused.


The photos below show how the earth moved up and to the right along the Nojima fault line, even moving a hedge out of sync! The fault ran through a house and the damage this caused inside is today preserved for all to see.. Phil and I were also able to try out the earthquake simulator to get a better understanding of what the 20 second long Hanshin-Awaji earthquake might have felt like. Scary is all I can say.


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On a much brighter note on Sunday Tomoko (creator of the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants) took Phil and I on a journey to Nagoya to join a team of students and staff from Longwood Garden for a lesson on Chrysanthemums. The trip gave us our first experience of the famous Japanese bullet train (orderly queues for the train doors, acres of leg room, a peg for your coat and hat, sushi on the trolley dolly – what’s not to love?) and views of some stunning mountainous scenery from the train window.
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At the Nagoya Flower Market Mr Nagata gave a very interesting talk about Classic and General Chrysanthemums for display (or ‘mums’ as the Japanese and Americans seem to refer to them – back home I’ve only ever known them shortened to ‘xanths’, so ‘mums’ amused me at first).
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I don’t know a huge amount about Chrysanthemums for display so I took down several pages of notes – far to many to record them all in this blog I think. The most interesting parts for me were learning about the history of Chrysanthemums in Japan, and the way that individual display methods have been developed for the display of specific cultivars. For example, the feathery-looking Sara kiku Chrysanthemum is displayed on a long, clean stem to accommodate its being planted 1 metre below the porch of a temple – the Chrysanthemum is trained to produce 3 flowers at the top, 5 in the middle and 7 at the bottom, representing the three special ages at which children’s ceremonies are held at shrines in a Japan.
According to Mr Nagata Chrysanthemums were first introduced from China in the 8th century and were for their first 700 or so years reserved only for the higher echelons of society. The Edo Shoguns took a keen interest in cultivating Chrysanthemums and this interest trickled down to the Feudal Lords, to the Samurai Warriors and, from the 15th century onwards, to the general public. Traditionally Chrysanthemum propagation in Japan is not focused on reproducing large numbers but on preserving rare and unusual species, a tradition which continues to this day. Sadly it is not the time of year to see Chrysanthemums in bloom so I have no pictures to share with you of the beautiful species Mr Nagata shared with us on his slide show. I did have time to take some photos of the flower market as the staff were setting up for the market on Monday morning though…
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After the flower market we visited a nearby restaurant for lunch (udon noodles – yum!)and, in traditional Japanese style, we had to sit on knees around a low table. Well, actually men can sit cross-legged, but women are expected to adopt the full dead-leg inducing pose…
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The last stop of the day was to a nearby nursery where Phil and I joined the Longwood gang to receive another talk, this time by Camellia grower Mr Maeda. We were shown some really unusual species and cultivars – many with very interesting or oversized leaves. Just take a look at these beauties (the flowers, not the Longwood team…).
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    • rhiannonharris2014

      Thanks Sarah. We’re really enjoying it here – strangely I feel quite at home in Japan! We miss you all at Hidcote though.

  1. Sally

    Enjoyed seeing the different camellia’s,xanths have such a different “history” here as they are used so much for funeral flowers(ex florist).It is interesting seeing them in a different culture. Sally x

  2. rhiannonharris2014

    I know! I’ve never been a great fan of xanths but some of the Japanese classic one are beautiful. You could do some beautiful arrangements with them x

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