Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marsh lilies in Kinasa

I will write about Okususohana Nature Park at Kinasa (Kinasa, or 鬼無里, which literally means "no devil village") in Nagano prefecture with photos I took. The place is called "nature park" but actually it is not just a park but a mountain with total ecosystem. It is noted for about 810,000 "mizubasho" in the marshland surrounded by the 300 to 400 year-old Japanese beeches, Japanese horse chestnuts and others. Mizubasho are here and there along the running water and in the marshes.

"Mizubasho" is "Japanese skunk cabbage" in English according to a dictionary, but "marsh lilies" would be more suitable to their lovely white fairly-like images. Petals are not white parts but the tiny yellow parts around the green core. Oze is best known for "mizubasho" with a song Natsu no Omoide (Memory of Summer), while Kinasa is a bit off the beaten track in the heart of the mountains, but more and more people are visiting there recently during the season.

To be honest with you, there was something against my expectation regarding mizubasho. I imagined them flowering lovely gregariously like in the advertisement posters. Mizubasho start flowering at the thawing of the snow, but this year's abnormal weather, which alternated winter-like cold and summer-like hot, has made some mizubasho looked miserable. Actually when I visited there two days ago, it was very hot but I heard it had snowed a week before. Maybe mizubasho were torn between hot and cold?

I was to go through virgin forests of beeches to the top of Mt. Nakanishi, but the path was closed halfway due to snow which was still left. In the forests, birds were chirping; I could recognize woodpeckers and bush warblers, my husband "hoojiro" or Japanese bunting. There were butterbur sprouts, field horsetail shoots ("tsukushi" in Japanese), "miyamasumire", "nirinso", and so on. Beech trees have just started budding leaves, and the earlier ones have lovely translucent green leaves. In early summer when leaves have grown, they will make comfortable shades.

When I saw mountain cherry blossoms, オオヤマザクラ, I thought they were still lingering around, but I found out they had just started blooming judging from the brown (or purplish red) color of budding leaves.

It is said the flowering of mizubasho tells the late arrival of spring in Kinasa. Spring is sprung there now!


  1. The late spring has encased the Kinasa land. With your beautiful photos, I am remembering the Mizubasho in Oze I visited long time ago. I also had imagined Mizubasho like in the advertisement pictures. Though the Mizubasho flowering had not covered all over the marsh ground, they were enough beatiful to enjoy. The tiny white beauty is like stars in the field. I always admire the fleeting beauty of flowers. Thank you for your photos of Kinasa and your garden! I really like them.

  2. When I read the story with lovely pictures, recalled the past visiting there with my family more than two decades ago. I think it was in early May,(called Golden Week), but it was not crowded because Kinasa was unfamiliar with Mizubasho at that time. I also found Japanese butterbur flower-buds (フキノトウ) here and there on the way to Okususohana Nature Park, and picked them up. Tasted them with Tempura after coming back home!

    There was still unmelted snow,about 30cm deep, so we had to put on boots which were borrowed by a Hotel! When I found the Mizubashou along the running water and marshes, I was entranced by the magnificent view of contrast; blue sky, unmelted snow and Mizubasho. It is great memory for me. Thank you, Stardust.

  3. Redrose, I'd like to visit Oze, too. Not only the flowers like mizubasho or yellow lilies (Nikko-kisuge) but the topography of that area is interesting.

  4. It was my first visit there, lily. In spite of the mizubasho season, people were sparse around there. Almost all the visitors seem to be local (Shinano) people or from Kanto area and the place is not so well known in Kansai so far. When I said we came from Nara, people were so surprised for us to have come all the way. Nara is so provincial? Anyway, once we entered a little deep into the forest, we seldom met other people and could monopolize the views and sounds of the forests. Traffic was also sparse on the mountain road to Kinasa. With only one lane on zigzag winding road, driving would be stressful and tiring when people surge to there like in most tourist destinations.

    I hear Mizubasho of Kinasa was discovered in the biggining of 60's. I hope the place will be protected from large scale development for tourism and commercialism.

  5. When I hear the name of Kinasa,I remember we lost our way around there. At that time we were living in Tokyo and we planed to drop in Niigata and Hakuba in Nagano before coming back to mother's house at Obon.We didn't have a navigator
    and found that we mistook the way but we thought the direction is right so we drove ahead.The road got narrow and steep.We saw the sign 鬼無里.We were frighted because we thought demon is here mistakenly.We needed courage to continue driving ahead. But if I knew about skunk cabbage,we would have gone to see them.

  6. You might have been frightened to see the letter 鬼(demon) but you could be relieved to see the next letter 無(non). You can see mizubasho flowering in May. The place is good for camping in summer.

  7. Hello Stardust,
    I have been taking a little stroll through your posts, enjoying your wonderful photos and your writing. I see you are acquainted with my friend, Tomoku, who also lives in Nara. Where I live at high altitude in CO, USA, our weather is also torn between winter and summer. It has been lovely the past week or so and wildflowers are now profuse, still being watered by snowmelt. I especially like that last photo of the mountain framed by cherry blossoms. It is startling and lovely to see blooming when there is still snow on the peaks.


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