This is the third and last of my informal reports on our visit and meeting in Japan in 2008. For the first report, please click here. If you wish to read the second report, please click here.
Our final visit of Japan 2008 was spent at Clematis-no-Oka, also known as the Clematis Hill White Garden. Most if not all of us had not heard of this garden before and had no idea what to expect, though the very well designed website gave a few clues that, whatever it was, it would be beautifully presented. And it was! But I get ahead of myself.
Clematis-no-Oka describes itself as "a multi-cultural facility of art and nature" and having visited, I understand exactly what they mean. Clematis-no-Oka is owned and operated by the Okano family. It is located in grounds around the Bernard Buffet Museum, an art gallery dedicated to the works of this 20th century French painter and opened in 1973. It houses the extensive collection of Buffet art, established by Kiichiro Okano, the father of the current president, Kinosuke Okano. Also located within an extension to the gallery and on the lawns surrounding it is the Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum.
The schedule started with a visit to a private garden but, with the rain beating down, there was some dynamic rescheduling and on arrival we were ushered into the lecture theatre to listen to:-
- Mr. Soichi Shibuya on "Clematis Cut Flowers"
- Maurice Horn on "North American Clematis Species"
- Ton Hannink on "Commercial Clematis in the last years and the changes in Europe"
- Mr. Akihito Kaneko on "Japanese Clematis Varieties".
Four very interesting talks by four very interesting people. After the talks, Ton Hannink, the new President of our Society, presented Mrs Taeko Okano with a small gift.
The rain was starting to ease off as we made our way back to the coaches for a short journey to the private garden that we were to visit. Private gardens in Japan tend to be quite small, but the lack of size was more than made up for by the number of plants.
It is always interesting to see private gardens, rarely possible as an ordinary tourist, and see how they are arranged and what plants have been used. This was in quite a sheltered location and many green leaved plants and shrubs had been used. However there were some clematis. We were not the only ones to enjoy this garden as many of the flowers were covered with beautiful butterflies. And as we watched the plants and butterflies, we were being watched by a camera crew, who continued to follow and film our progress throughout the day.
After a short visit we returned to Clematis-no-Oka for lunch in one of the restaurants within the complex, a delicious buffet with a wide range of different Japanese and international fare, including a delicate version of "Fish and Chips", a miniature teacup containing a small morsel of lightly battered and fried fish with a single golden chip. Exquisite!
Our visit continued with the Bernard Buffet Museum. As we walked towards the museum we were given a taste of what might be in store later this day with three floriferous displays of clematis in pots. The comprehensive collection of his works spans his life and demonstrates very graphically how his style changed with time and experience. I was unaware of this artist before our visit, so it was particularly interesting that the museum not only showed many of his works but also chronicled his life.
We exited the museum into the Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum and sunshine - perfect for a group photo (see end of this report) before finally finding the clematis.
Taeko Okano first saw clematis on a visit to London and immediately fell in love with them. She came back and set about constructing the gardens, with help and advice from clematis expert, Akihito Kaneko. The gardens are barely 7 years old yet are wonderfully mature. The collection of clematis is extensive and very well planted and grown, with a good mix of small and large flowered, Japanese and other cultivars. The staff are obviously very dedicated to their task, as I saw first hand when I noticed these three gardeners, having spotted an untidy plant, immediately set about sprucing it up.
I can only show here a handful of the interesting clematis we saw in flower, many of which were new to most of us. There's only one answer for those who were unable to join us in Japan this time, you must visit for yourselves.
C. 'Little Boy'
C. florida var. flore-pleno
We were joined for the previous evening and today by members of the Sagamihara Clematis Society, many of whom are friends from previous meeting and events. It was really nice that they were able to join us and they added to the atmosphere of friendship that had pervaded the whole of the event, and indeed our time in Japan.
We spent the whole of the afternoon wandering the extensive gardens admiring the clematis, and other plants, or just sitting and taking in the atmosphere.
In the evening we were treated to buffet dinner in the Garden Basara restaurant, one of the various restaurants and cafes on site. Once again the food surpassed our expectations, a delightful mix of Japanese and western delicacies.
It was a special occasion in many ways as three of our party, members of the Sagamihara Clematis Society, arrived in clematis design kimonos, each hand printed and totally original. Our thanks to Hisako Suzuki, Keiko Kazama and Fusako Masaki for letting us enjoy these rare and absolutely beautiful dresses.
We also must thank them for letting a few selected members try them on. I gather they took a little getting used to, but everyone looked extremely elegant.
The evening passed quickly and it was time to go. So we thank Kinosuke Okano, his wife Taeko, and his two daughters, Keiko and Koko for their welcome and hospitality and for a wonderful show of clematis.
The hotel we stayed at that night should have had a good view of Mount Fuji, but in the morning there was far too much mist and low cloud to make out more than the vaguest outline. We though we would have to be content with the rather fine manhole covers. But as we travelling back to Nagoya for our final dinner of Japan 2008 at the Hilton Nagoya, we stopped for lunch at motorway services close to Mount Fuji and the mist lifted. It made a very fitting end to Japan 2008.
I leave you with a group photo taken in Clematis-no-Oka. For a high resolution version, please click on the picture but be warned, it is over 6 Mbytes.
To return to the first report, please click here.
To return to the second report, please click here.
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