For Gerard Taaffe's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Dec 26, 2002
Time seems to fly by. With 2003 just around the corner, major housework operations are in order to enter the year with everything sparkling. Garden companies, too, will be busy cleaning up gardens. Pruning pine trees and cutting hedges, known as hagari (lit. "leaf-cutting") is an important part of the outside work. However, although Japanese gardeners are masters of detail, no matter how beautifully they tend to the trees and plants, if the garden is not perfectly clean when they leave then all their work is as nought! In this regard, though modern blowers are very useful, hand tools such as te-boki (bamboo brushes) are invaluable for applying the final touches.
Nov 28, 2002
This year, the autumn color has been truly magnificent in the Kansai region, primarily thanks to the Japanese maple. Every year, these trees are almost guaranteed to deliver wonderful yellow-and-red fall foliage, but this year the sudden drop in temperature in the first few days of November pushed into high gear the mechanisms that control the color pigments in deciduous trees.
Oct 24, 2002
Autumn in Japan is a colorful season, and not only because of the famed koyo foliage of its trees. In gardens, fields and roadsides, too, flowers burst forth as if to celebrate the return of sensible weather after the long, sweaty rigors of summer. However, some of the best-known blooms of this fall season aren't native plants at all, but alien species from the Americas and China.
Oct 10, 2002
At a mere 374 meters high, Arima-Fuji in Hyogo Prefecture is hardly on a par with the Kanto peak whose name it shares, but its conical shape does bear a passing resemblance. Though it's almost all clothed with pleasent woodland, from the bare rocky areas near the summit there are good views of the surrounding countryside and the city of Sanda.
Sep 12, 2002
Aug 22, 2002
Japan's floral symbol of summer, the asagao (morning glory; Ipomoea purpurea) is an interesting climber with beautiful blooms that has been cultivated on these islands for more than 1,000 years since being brought from China during the Nara Period (710-784). Before that, its origins are a matter of some debate, with many believing the family Convolvulaceae (of which it is part) is native to tropical Asia, and others pointing to tropical America instead.
Jul 25, 2002
Jul 11, 2002
Jun 27, 2002
Daikakuji Temple in northwest Kyoto started life in the lyrical Heian Period as Saga-in, the Detached Palace of Emperor Saga, who reigned from 809 until he abdicated and went to live there permanently in 823. Then in 876, his daughter Princess Shoshi designated Saga-in to be converted into a Buddhist temple.
Jun 13, 2002
May 23, 2002
May 9, 2002
Apr 25, 2002
The Arashiyama area in western Kyoto along the banks of the Katsura River is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and its glorious autumn foliage. Until this month, a less popular attraction had been the gardens of Hogonin Temple, a sub-temple of Tenryuji Zen Temple -- largely because they had been closed to the general public for 140 years.
Apr 11, 2002
The Imperial Palace grounds are, without doubt, Tokyo's green heart. Located inside a 6.4-km ring of walls and moats that were once the inner defensive perimeter of Edo Castle, this verdant oasis now covers 115 hectares in all, with evergreen woodlands overlooking the moats and creating a very special atmosphere at the hub of the teeming metropolis.
Mar 28, 2002
Mar 24, 2002
If you're chafing about the city's dearth of green spaces, but you're blessed with a balcony, you could make your own garden. It could be your little contribution toward greening the city. If you haven't tried it before, you might be pleasantly surprised by how much joy a tiny space brimming with leaves and petals can bring you, and how absorbing it can be to spend a few hours pottering around with your plants every week, learning and experimenting all the while. And it's not just the thrill of seeing sunbursts of color out your window, it's also the satisfaction of watching something grow with the aid of your tender loving care.
Feb 28, 2002
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