I had a little tea party with some of my favorite trees in Matsue. I’ve written about these unusual trees before, if the photos from that entry are any point of comparison, then this year I got to them a little bit early and the fringe-like petals had not yet gotten so long.


When most people think of the Nanjyamonjya (an affectionate nickname to the effect of “what-the-tree-is-this?”, whereas its usual name is hitotsubatago) as the line of full, fluffy trees near the Otemae entrance to Matsue Castle, at the southeast corner.

There are also a few on the quieter western side, nestled between the plum and camellia gardens.

nanjya

I started my little tea party in the sunny patch under the most sparse of the trees, mostly using miniature tools I had received as gifts, and enjoying some seasonal sweets from Saiundo, one of the major wagashi producers in Matsue. Every time the wind blew, I was surrounded by falling white petals that made little thumping sounds against my hat. Playful sparrows hopped around above, and I had the view of the nearby sunlight nanjyamonjya and the lush nanjyamonja a short distance away in the shadows.


Despite the various tea events going on, such as the temporary tea house on the castle moat, this was rather unceremonious. Although Matsue is a prime spot for a number of schools of the tea ceremony, in its general daily tea culture, they embrace very casual matcha drinking. Hence, I took it easy.

I made sure to have that second cup, though! I had that one over by the main entrance, as more and more Sunday tourists gradually started making their trips up to the castle tower. These trees are one the first things you see upon entering, so there were comments over and over and over about the sight of them.

“Wow! Look at those trees!”
“What is that?”
“How pretty…”
“They’re so fluffy.”
Hi-to-tsu-ba-ta-go… hmm, never heard of it.”
“Oh, looks like it’s also called nanjyamonjya. Hahaha, nanjyamonjya!
Nanjyamonjya!

Their curiosity upon seeing these trees was justified, as Matsue Castle is one of only about six places in Japan where these trees are found.

There was also the more typical Matsue Castle views to enjoy–the tower itself, the ninomaru area of the inner keep, the majestic castle walls in the bright sunshine.


But enjoying the tea and the petals was nice enough already.

Until next year, fluffy trees.

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!