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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

IN BLOOM

Sakura-so (Japanese primrose)


In our country Even the weeds bear Cherry blossoms!

By Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

Issa was no doubt thinking of the dainty sakura-so (literally, "cherry-blossom plant") when he wrote this haiku. Japanese primroses (Primula sieboldii) were once a common sight, growing in masses near rivers, rice paddies, or anywhere they could find spring sunshine and damp soil. In Issa's day, Ukimagahara, north of Edo (present-day Tokyo), was famous for its primroses growing beside the Arakawa River. Sadly, this riverside, along with many others, was polluted or covered with concrete in the 20th century, and many vital habitats for plants and wildlife were destroyed. But some Ukima residents formed a group to rescue the primroses, and every spring they hold a "sakura-so matsuri" (festival), where visitors can enjoy seeing wild species as well as some of the remarkable old cultivars. While the wild flowers have simple white or pink blooms (as above), the cultivars can be quite dramatic. These include Matsu no Yuki (Pine snow), which is white-streaked with green, and Shirataki (White waterfall), which has deeply fringed petals. The 43rd Ukima Sakura-so Matsuri is being held from 9-23 April, at Ukima Park in Tokyo, which is a 5-minute walk from Ukimafunato Station on the Saikyo Line. (For more details, visit city.kita.tokyo.jp)



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