It’s Golden Week so people have time to travel, which means every pocket of Japan is flooded with visitors right now. Even better, this period of consecutive public holidays coincides with extremely pleasant, picnic-perfect weather.

I can’t stress enough what a great time it is to see peonies at Yuushien Garden while thousands and thousands and thousands more are on display than usual, but as we know, peonies tend to be show-offs, and there are plenty of other seasonal flowers to enjoy at this time.

One of my favorites I hadn’t seen much before moving here was fuji (wisteria, witten as 藤, not 富士 like Mt. Fuji!), and from the highway you can see large purple trees towering out among the forests, and one of my favorite seasonal sweets from Kiharu, a charming cafe inside the Matsue History Museum, is an original wagashi with a delicate fuji motif.

That photo is from the wisteria at Yuushien among all the peonies, but one of the most pleasant and easily accessed (and free!) places to view them is Matsue English Garden, which is what it sounds like: A garden in Matsue designed and maintained in English style, with varying heights and shapes and botanic selections around the meandersome garden paths. Located right outside one of the closest railway stations to Matsue Shinjiko Onsen station (the easternmost on the Ichibata Railway that leads to Izumo Taisha), you can walk right in and go straight to wandering the garden, or there are like displays and exhibitions or fairs going on within the glass-walled hallways surrounding the garden.

englishgarden

On a sunny day, light floods all of the enclosures, including the hot house or the stage area which is home to a couple of giant ficus trees I’m very fond of and some other unusual plants I still am not sure of the identity of. While I haven’t eaten at the restaurant there (but enjoyed ice cream or home cooked treats from food fairs), I imagine it is also well lit as it provides a view of Lake Shinji, which the garden is on the northern banks of.

But the upclose view of Lake Shinji is free, too. There is a grassy green lawn to stretch out or run around on at the southernment most point of the garden, overlooking the lake, or you could take a stroll down to the boardwalk. We held the closing ceremony and reception of the 23rd Japan-America Grassroots Summit 2013 in Shimane in this back area last July, and it proved to be the perfect space to accomodate so many mingling visitors and performances. It’s no wonder people plan weddings there.


But, you know, I live right by Lake Shinji too and have no shortage of good views of it. There is something in bloom all year around (most notably a wide variety of seasonal roses!), so I was there to see plants and English garden design!





And of course, early May means wisteria, which are best viewed from within the tunnels they hang from when arranged in gardens, observing the speckled sunlight and the purple hues in varying rays and shadows.


Miss Artemis from Otaku Lounge is a good model as always!

Those of you with access to them, go out and enjoy some wisteria. After all, in Hanakotoba (Flower Language), they mean “Welcome!” However, be careful! They also mean intoxication, including being intoxicated with love.

Speaking of those of you with access, the furry nanjyamonjya trees at Matsue Castle will be blooming soon!

Note the Yamabushi (mountain warrior) with deer horns, as well as the gender balance.

A perfectly nice Sunday in Matsue, and not unusually, there are warriors walking about the castle area. Also, stopping into Kiharu in the history museum for some tea and wagashi is just as pleasant as usual.

Around this time in spring, purple is in season. In addition to irises along the castle moats throughout the city, western Japan is also covered in blooming wisteria. I had always imagined them only being vines covering archways in gardens, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see they grow as tall as cottonwoods in the wild.


You might be surprised to have your tea and inspired confection experience interrupted by the sounds of gunfire. Gunfire in Japan!? Nothing to take cover from, it’s just the Teppo-dan, Matsue’s rifle group that practices rifle use according to how it was practiced in the Edo era. They perform demonstrations at special events throughout the year, but you can also catch them for free at the history museum courtyard.

Seeing as this is was simply one part of martial arts training for the samurai class, the group is armed with not only rifles (gunpowder only), but also swords. Sessions begin with a little sword practice.


After that, they move into displaying a few different gunfire formations.


This formation is called “Chidori-uchi”, which could be interpreted as either being arranged like a plover in flight, or shooting plovers. Either way, it seems fitting for Matsue since Matsue Castle is nicknamed Chidori-jo (Plover Castle) for it’s wing-like shachihoko (decorative fish) at the top of the roof, the largest in Japan.

The length of the performances may be weather dependant, but they typically perform at 10:00am and 2:00pm on the third Sunday of every month. According to one of the group members, this may also be one of the only places in Japan with all-female groups putting on displays sometimes, too. They practice elsewhere outside of the city center, and if anyone who lives here is interested enough, I’m sure they’d be excited to bring on beginners.