Yagyu is a small village on the outskirts of Nara City. It looks just like any other ordinary rural area, but actually it is special, the home of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, one of the oldest Japanese schools of swordsmanship. The place is also known for iris fields, 柳生花菖蒲園, located near the old manor house of Yagyu.
Local farmers started cultivating "hana-shobu", or Japanese water iris, utilizing their fallow paddies which have a good irrigation system. Water taken from a brook which flows down from the moutain criss-crosses in the area. Visitors walk on ridges between iris fields while hearing comfortable rustling sound of water. A blade of hana-shobu looks like a Japanese sword: a perfect flower for the home of swordsmanship.
looking up at the mountains
From the top of the terraced fields, visitors have a panoramic view of 800,000 irises in 460 varieties stretching over an area of 10,000 square meters. Flowers bloom one after another till the beginning of July.
In contrast to the gardens of temples or parks, the arrangement ot these iris fields is less refined or more natural. The place is a paradise not only for flowers like irises, hydrangeas, and water lilies, but also for small creatures like frogs, tadpoles, butterflies, bees.... and so on.
I like blades of irises as well as flowers.
By the way, as many Japanese people know, hana-shobu and shobu are of different families despite their names. Shobu is a relative of the yam not iris. Their blades look alike but their flowers are different. (See here.) Blades of shobu are used in shobu-yu (shobu in hot water) on May 5th, Children's Day. It is a Japanesel custom that parents put blades of shobu in the bustub filled with hot water for purification. The powerful fragrance of shobu is believed to ward off evil spirits. Blades of hana-shobu don't produce such a strong fragrance.
Finally I found a snail for the first time this season ... resting on the back of hydrangea leaf! I'm amazed with its hanging-in-there, but perhaps being upsidedown is a piece of cake for a snail? Many people say they have rarely seen snails these days. Are your companies doing hide-and-seek so skillfully?
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