So, what better time for a post about fall colors! (Well, that too is a transition).
November is when we usually head toward northern Ibaraki in search of autumnal tints. In 2008, we returned to Seizan-so in Hitachi-Ota City. Seizan-so was the retirement home of Mitsukuni Tokugawa (1628-1700), the Second Duke of Mito who was responsible for “The Great History of Japan” - a chronicle of the emperors of Japan from the first (legendary) Emperor Jimmu, said to have lived from 660 BCE to 585 BCE, to Emperor Gokomatsu who reunified the Northern and Southern Dynasties in 1392. The 397 volume history was written in all Chinese characters (Kanji) and was such an enormous undertaking that it was not completed until 1906 - over 200 years after Mitsukuni's passing and 249 years from the time the project started.
In recent times, Mitsukuni Tokugawa has been immortalized by the popular NHK period drama "Mito Kōmon", which has been running since 1969. Though based on the real Duke, the adventures of Mito Kōmon are fictitious and can be traced to novels of the early 19th Century. Kōmon is the Japanese pronunciation of Mituskuni's official title which was "Gon-chunagon", the equivalent of second Lord of Imperial Ordinance of China during the Tang Dynasty. This was an honorary titled conferred upon him when he retired. He is generally referred to as Mito Kōmon today with both affection and respect.
The name Seizan-so also has a Chinese origin. The poet Tao Yan-ming (365-427) wrote
"Jinkan Itarutokoro Seizan Ari" which means:
"A green hill fit for one's burial place is to be found anywhere.
Fortune awaits you everywhere.
There is room for us all in the world."
(Well, after all, back in 400 CE the population of the entire world was only about 200 million!)
Seizan-so burned down after the Duke's death in 1700, but was rebuilt about 175 years ago and today is open to the public. We have visited there several times, but last November was the best for viewing the colorful leaves of fall. There is a gift shop and cafeteria at the entrance. A small fee is charged to enter the grounds around the house.
It is a most beautiful and peaceful place to visit. Often we have seen artists sketching and of course lots of photographers trying to capture its essence. The man himself is an interesting figure, if one can tease historical fact from legend. That he created this place, farmed, and worked on the “The Great History of Japan” during the last 10 years of his life tells us much about him. He also seems to have had the common man at heart.
Mitsukuni Tokugawa was interested in herbs and their medicinal uses. He grew many varieties and wrote a pharmacology book about 397 herbs and printed and distributed the book to benefit ordinary people.
He also grew rice, plowing the 5000 sq. meter (about 1.25 acre) paddy himself, and in spite of his high office and relationship to the Shogun (he was his second son) he made sure to pay the same tax as any other rice farmer.
Perhaps we'll visit in Spring sometime, as there are plum trees, a trestle of wisteria, and other trees that are lovely when in bloom.