Plant Collecting on Shirasuyama 白巣山

Last month I met with Hayashi-sensei, a professor at Awaji Landscape Planning and Horticulture Academy (ALPHA – this is the where Triad students have accommodation in Japan) (淡路景観園芸学校).

She mentioned that she is leading a project at Izanagi Shrine (伊弉諾神宮) constructing a new tea garden on the shrine grounds. Hayashi-sensei has studied the Japanese tea ceremony for 8 years, and she designed the layout for the new garden and has been heading up the installation as well. One of the stipulations for the garden is that everything must be sourced from Awaji Island. Hayashi-sensei asked if Adam and I would like to join her on a plant collecting trip for the garden, and of course we were very excited to join her.


A sign talking about Shirasuyama, a mountain on Awaji Island near Sumoto.

We drove to nearby Shirasuyama (白巣山) to do the plant collecting. A new dam was going to be built, so we were cleared to collect plants as they will likely be disturbed during construction or submerged after.


With trowel and basket in hand, I was ready to collect some plants!


Along with a group of volunteers and a priest from the shrine, we set off to collect!

We collected a number of different ferns, mosses, and flowering plants some of which you may be familiar with as ornamental plants in America. Most surprising to me were the groves of flowering camellias (Camellia japonica). I am so used to seeing them as small to medium sized ornamental shrubs in America, but here on the mountain there were some that must have been about 30 feet tall! They also varied in color and bloom time.


Asarum nipponicum カンアオイ




A native species of Clematis


Ardisia japonica ヤブコウジ


Groves of Camellia japonica 椿

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A narrow leaved Acuba japonica アオキ


Contrasted with this much broader leaved Acuba


Petasites japonicus フキ – Also an edible plant with proper preparation!


Fatsia japonica ヤツデ

Hayashi-sensei will be getting back to me with the IDs of the many ferns and mosses we collected.



Adam with his loot



What a view from the top of the mountain!

After we had all finished filling up our baskets, we drove to Izanagi Shrine so we could get the plants in the ground.


We separated the plants and mosses by species before breaking for lunch.




A view of the tea garden before we started planting. This is a view of the “outer garden” which you enter first. The “inner garden” is within the second fence.


Even the stones were collected on Awaji Island, many of them on the shrine grounds.


Do you see the turtle?


Hayashi-sensei (far left) directed us where things needed to be planted.


Adam planting some ferns.


As we planted, we amended the lean, rocky soil with compost. After that we broadcast a granular 8-8-8 fertilizer around both the new and existing plants.




Once we had finished planting, the head priest came to inspect our work. He approved!

As Hayashi-sensei stressed to us, it is very important to understand and have a working knowledge of the Japanese tea ceremony before you design a tea garden. There are many formalities in the ceremony which are facilitated by the layout of the garden itself. This is why she has studied the tea ceremony for 8 years.

I’m can’t wait to attend a tea ceremony next month!

– Bryan Kottke


  1. Mary Allinson

    A wonderful experience. Did you collect and plant in one day? Looked cold while collecting the plants…what’s the weather like now? Looking forward to hearing about the tea ceremony.
    Mary A

    • Bryan Kottke

      Hi Mary,

      Yes, we collected and planted the same day. It was much colder on the mountain where we collected (probably close to freezing) than at the temple. Overall, the winter has been cold, but it doesn’t often go below freezing in Awaji Island, so the ground stays soft.

      This week has been a bit warmer, in the 50s. The Prunus mume are peaking now and the they look and smell amazing!


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