We’re probably all familiar with the rose–but how about its native Asian cousin, the camellia? While Camellia Sinensis is the plant that tea leaves comes from, C. Japonica comes in a wide variety of blossoms. It’s known here as 椿 (tsubaki), and it is one of the symbol flowers of Matsue. In Western flower language the camellia stands for an unpretending sort of excellence, and the Japanese Hanakotoba are more along the lines of modesty and loveliness beyond reproach (or in a white camellia’s case, a cool beauty). It also has connotations with love–an ideal love, or slightly different meanings by color. A red camellia may mean “I’m in love” or “I have a reserved kind of love,” whereas a white camellia might have more to do with waiting. Many camellia varieties may have buds for a few months before blooming–I’m willing to bet that’s where they got the “waiting” part!

There was a variety of camellia that bloomed through most of the winter all through town (and which smelled very sweet!), but most of the more unique varities–or even the most basic red ones which first come to mind when someone pictures them–all burst into bloom around the same period of time earlier in March, and are still continuing to bloom now. The big pink ones right outside my office just opened up over the past few days! While I’m always excited to see what varieties are peaking over the fences around the neighborhood, one of the best places to see them is in the camellia forest on the western Matsue Castle grounds, home to about 450 camellia trees. The San’in Camellia Club just held their 44th camellia show on the castle grounds over this past weekend, too.

Now here’s a whole bunch of pictures I’ve been collecting over the past few weeks:

There are some other connotations associated with the camellia that I’ll bring up in my next entry about them.