Aside from seeing some truly beautiful gardens the main purpose of mine and Phil’s week in Kyoto was to spend three days working at Ume-Koji kōen, learning from the skilled team of horticulturists there. So on Wednesday we took a longish stroll along to the park, where we greeted and given a tour of the complex.
Then it was time to get down to business and to do some practical gardening! Over the week we learned to prune a range of different shrubs including Spirea, pines and Pieris.
We were also taken back to Ōkōchi-Sanso where we were taught to look at the garden features in greater detail and I learned to spend time stepping from one stepping stone to another, enjoying the different placements of the stones and the way it felt to make small and larger steps.
We were also treated to proper Japanese matcha tea at the Ōkōchi-Sanso tea house, which offered splendid views of the Agashiyama Bamboo Grove.
We made the best of our week in Kyoto after work, on the first day visiting Maruyama Park…
…and the small, lesser-known Choraku-ji Temple…
…before heading to Kodai-ji temple for the spectacular night time illumination.
Entoku-ji, the temple gardens adjacent to Kodai-ji, were also partaking in the night time illumination event, so we had a double whammy that evening!
The following evening we took a final wander through Gion and the surrounding area, and stopped off at Nishiki Market to ogle over the culinary curios and sample a few local delicacies.
Back on Awaji, the following week it was time for the International Symposium, to which all current and future TRIAD Fellows were invited along with various persons from the National Trust, Longwood Gardens and the Alliance of Hyogo. We met each other for the first time during a welcome lunch at the ALPHA campus.
Along with the other current TRIAD Fellows Phil and I had to give a presentation about our experience to date:-
Then it was time to give our feedback about the fabulous experience we had had thus far on our TRIAD adventures, and after this we were treated to a glorious Japanese-French fusion dinner at the Westin Hotel, Awaji Yumebutai, and to be awarded our certificates.
After the symposium itself…
…we TRIAD fellows had the opportunity to bond over visits to temples, the Awaji Yumebutai complex, local puppetry and several dinners. We may have enjoyed the children’s play park a little more than we should have…
IKEBANA AND OSAKA
As the International Symposium drew to an end Tomoko took Phil and I on a day trip to Osaka. As a special treat we took the boat instead of the bus from Awaji to Hyushu.
The purpose of our trip was to take part in a special Ikebana event, where we were not only able to see some beautiful, professional ikebana arrangements…
…but we were able to take part in a student activity and create one of our own.
No Ikebana event would be complete without a traditional tea ceremony…
I even got to take part in a traditional dance ceremony too!
After this Tomoko treated us to a delicious lunch…
…then it was off to a local temple before returning home to Awaji for a final goodbye dinner with the other TRIAD Fellows.
By now Phil and I were into our last few days in Japan, but rather than relax and spend our time sorting and packing we decided there were a few more gardens we’d like to tick off our list! The first of these was Okayama, the third and final of the ‘three most beautiful gardens’ I was able to visit in Japan. You may remember that I’d been rather disappointed in Kairokuen, Mito, but had found Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, rather delightful, so the jury was out as to whether the third ‘most beautiful’ garden would live up to expectations. I’m pleased to say that it did! This beautiful landscape garden is traditional in many ways but unusual in its expanse of green lawns. Maybe the excess greenery reminded me of home but I think Kenrokuen may just have made it to the top of my list of gardens in Japan. I only hope these photos do it justice…
The next day we caught a train to Uji on the outskirts of Kyoto to visit Byōdo-in. Byōdo-in was built during the Heian era but did not become a temple until Fujiwara no Yorimichi made it so in 1052.The temple is most famous for the Phoenix Hall, so much so that it is featured on the 10 Yen piece and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site! The gardens themselves are a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty, and it’s not hard to see why, especially with the world-famous wisteria!
Our next day was spent packing and revisiting Kiseki no Hoshi to say our goodbyes to Tomoko, Tomoyo and the wonderful garden team there.
That evening Tomoko treated to a goodbye meal with Chikako and Takeshi, the two new Japanese TRIAD Fellows.
Then all too soon it was time to take an early morning taxi from Awaji to Shin Kobe Station where we met Mori-san for a spot of paperwork…
…before catching a shinkansen to Tokyo. Here we ventured to Mukojima Hyakkaen, the last of the ‘nine Tokyo Metropolitan Gardens’ we had to visit. The name “Hyakkaen” was chosen to mean “a garden with a hundred flowers that bloom throughout the four seasons,” and certainly it was more of a plantsman’s (or woman’s!) garden then others we had visited in Japan.
At Tokyo airport we had a final goodbye meal with Chisato, our guide on our previous trip to Tokyo.
Then off to the USA! Sayonara Japan – we will miss you! A special thank you Tomoko for giving us such a warm and generous welcome to Japan and for a wonderful and inspiring time at Kiseki no Hoshi, to Mori-san for being a dear friend and being there for us whenever and wherever we needed him, to Tomoyo for being just so darn lovely, enthusiastic and friendly, Yukie for our language lessons, and to Hirata sensei, Matsushita-san and the students at ALPHA and Kiseki no Hoshi for being so kind and accommodating to us. I know I will be back to visit you all again soon – Japan is such a wonderful place so I know I will not be able to stay away for long!