For our second full day in Japan we ventured to the Samurai town of Sakura in Chiba Prefecture to visit the National Museum of Japanese History. What a day for a visit! The sun shone down and the sky was a perfect blue as we made the 1.5 hour journey via foot and the Keisei Electric Railway. Tokyo glistened as we sped past buildings, parks, rivers and girls in kimono for Coming of Age Day- a Japanese National holiday.
The National Museum of Japanese History is a rich cultural institution providing a comprehensive account of civilization in the Japanese archipelago. Starting with the ancient Jōmon people and carrying through to present day, the Fellows learned a great deal about the culture of Japan while witnessing prime examples of craftsmanship and ritual in the lives of Japan’s citizens. The Special Exhibit on Animism was a must-see, with amazing displays of nature deities and multimedia showcasing annual folkloric ceremonies.
Moving along into the modern day exhibit on Japanese culture we stumbled into one of the most recognizable faces in 1950s cinema- Godzilla!
In the afternoon, we headed over to the Botanical Garden of Everyday Life, where we met with Mr. Ayumu Ota who gave us an overview of the garden and introduced us to the head horticulturalist, Mr. Natoshi Yamamura. Ayumu-san and Yamamura-san provided us with a comprehensive overview of the types of chrysanthemum (kiku) that are cultivated for display in a manner consistent with the unique style of a particular region. The 5 regions where kiku growing was refined are: Saga Prefecture, Ise, Higo Province, Edo and Ōshū Province. Very distinct cultivars were introduced in each region, leading to an incredible display of beautiful flowers in an impressive array of shades.
Like Jindai Botanical Garden (see yesterday’s post), the Botanical Garden of Everyday Life currently has an exhibit on Camellia sasanqua, a species native to Japan and China that produces aromatic blooms that fade less quickly than other Camellia species. Sasanqua camellias were first exported to the west by the Dutch physician, Philipp Franz von Siebold, who was also responsible for introducing plants such as Hosta and Japanese knotweed to the West.
We would like to extend our greatest thanks to the staff of the National Museum of Japanese History for being so free with their time to provide a wonderful, behind-the-scenes tour of their facilities and for explaining kiku culture in great depth to the Longwood Fellows. Thanks to the generosity and friendliness of our Japanese hosts, the Fellows are enjoying our trip immensely.