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Mito and the blossom-less blossom festival.

JAPAN | Tuesday, 9 March 2010 | Views [1023] | Comments [1]

Plum Blossom festival (sans plum blossoms), Kairakuen Garden, Mito.

Plum Blossom festival (sans plum blossoms), Kairakuen Garden, Mito.

Upon arriving in any town in Japan, you’d be well advised to pay a quick visit to the local tourist information centre – usually located within the main train station or nearby to any major site of tourist interest.  These centres are useful for obtaining maps, guides and general information about the area, however, sometimes, the English language material distributed at said tourist centres is more amusing than it is helpful.  Take, for example, the flyer I picked up on a day trip to the capital of Ibaraki prefecture, Mito.

 “Mito city is the history and a town of art.  Kairakuen Park.  Kenrokuen Park in Kanazawa and Kourakuen Park in Okayama is known as the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.  Kairakuen is the park which is secondly big in the world.  There are Senba Lake,  Sakurayama.  Sakasagawaryokuchi and also lots of beautiful place to enjoy seeing in around the Park.”

Confused? Yes, so was I, but I think what the flyer was trying to get across is that Mito is a city rich in history and art, and is home to the scenic Kairakuen Park – which, along with Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Parks, is officially one of Japan’s top three gardens.

Enticed by this wonderful description, I could hardly resist making the trip to the “secondly big” garden in the world – particularly as my visit coincided with Mito’s annual Ume Matsuri, Plum Blossom Festival.  Since my first visit to the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul a few years back, I have been mesmerised by blossoms – walking along that 6km stretch of road, surrounded by clouds of perfect white and pink, deliciously fragrant, delicate flowers, I honestly felt like I was in heaven (and believe I uttered the words ‘so pretty’ approximately 30 times for each of the 1,400 odd trees I passed). 

It’s not just the visual beauty of these flowers that I love, but the way in which their short yet stunning existence is seen as a metaphor for the impermanence of life in the Buddhist psyche.  The fleeting glory of the blossom signifies the precarious and transitory nature of life– something we’re supposed to be reminded of during blossom festivals.

Unfortunately a recent cold snap had delayed the blossoming of the majority of trees at Kairakuen Park in Mito (like, for about 2997 of the 3000 trees in the park), so I didn’t quite get the blossom fix I was after.  Instead, I ambled through the gorgeous park that was bubbling with festive atmosphere and spent hours gazing at the gloriously painted rooms in the Koubun-tei (a 3 storey house within Kairakuen), each with a theme such as ‘The chrysanthemum room’, ‘The lantern room’ and ‘The bamboo room’.  I also paid a quick visit to the interesting Kodokan, an educational institution of the Mito clan in the 1840’s that offered training in military arts, astronomy, pharmacology and calligraphy amongst other disciplines.

Even if the trees aren’t in bloom, Mito makes for a very enjoyable day trip from Tokyo and I'd highly recommend you pay a visit if you get the chance. 







It is usually thought that all seasons are in the heart of man. This is true but outer weather also effect on us...

  rania Apr 30, 2011 1:30 AM

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