Surely we should be done with snow by now, right? What is this stuff!?

It’s mid-may around Matsue Castle, as spring is practically running to summer now. First there were plum blossoms, then came camellia, then cherry blossoms, then azalea and peonies, and now it appears something else is waking up in the warm weather.

But this is a rather unusually fleecy tree. What could it be? That’s what many people wanted to know back when it was introduced to Japan, leading to its common name, nanjyamonjya (or nanjamonja by more common romanization), which I’ve chosen to translate as “what-the-tree-is-this” to try to capture the tone of this questioning name. They are rather rare, with Matsue Castle being one of only eight spots around Japan that have them. Its proper name is hitotsubatago (Chinese fringe tree), but nanjyamonjya is much more fun.

I overheard a conversation between a mother and a boy who looked around 4-years-old or so.
Mother: This is a “nanjyamonjya.”
Boy: Really!? There are ninja here!??
Mother: No, I don’t think there are any today… ah, no! It’s nanjyamonjya, not ninja-monjya!

Considering the cover and shade these trees provide, though, I wouldn’t be surprised.

It turns out there were ninja and samurai up by the castle tower at that time, but this is completely normal. Matsue Castle is not only a tourist location, but it’s a rather social part of town where anyone can take a walk, enjoy the flowers and some dango, and walk their dogs.

Or take pictures of their dogs.

Or walk their prairie dogs??

Back on topic, the nanjyamonjya at Matsue Castle were a gift from Mr. Sugisaka, a former resident of Matsue, who sent them from Korea in 1940. They are noted for their snow-like (or beard-like?) petals, and the ones at Matsue Castle (found near by the main entrance to Matsue Castle as well as in the plum garden) are known for having somewhat longer flowers than the others mostly planted on shrines in other parts of Japan.

They have some fragrance, but it can be hard to detect. While searching for the scent, I also found that these flowers tickle. Since these trees are somewhat rare, enjoy some more pictures!