Japan is famous for the ornamental cherry trees whose
blossomsâ€”known as sakuraâ€”transform the countryâ€™s mountains, parks, and rivers with
spectacular pink and white blossoms every spring. The delicate sakura are an iconic symbol of
Japan, and with good reason. For thousands of years, Japanese people from all walks of life
have enjoyed and celebrated these lovely blooms
Cherry blossoms typically bloom and die within just a few
days, making them an enduring symbol of the transience and fragility of life. During the few
short weeks of the sakura season, people flock to parks for hanami (flower viewing) parties
beneath the trees.
The sakura may be the most famous Japanese blossom, but
itâ€™s far from the only flower celebrated in Japan. In fact, flower festivals occur across Japan in
every season of the year.
December and January mark the blooming season for
camellias (tsubaki, in Japanese), and many people visit the island of Oshima, which
rises from the sea about 120-km south of Tokyo, in the Izu archipelago, to experience the
hundreds of varieties of vibrant camellias growing there. In addition to their beauty, the
camellia seeds produce an oil thatâ€™s used as a skin care aid as well as for cooking.
After the camellias pass their peak, people across Japan
start watching for the pink and purple umeâ€”(Japanese plum blossoms), which
are widely considered the earliest harbingers of spring. Although less famous than their more
delicate cousins, the sakura, the ume
are just as beloved, and have inspired Japanese poets
and painters for many centuries.
After the plums, the sakura bloom, and then, in late April or
early May, the wild azaleas appear on the mountainsides and deep purple irises bloom in
gardens and temple yards across Japan. Tokyoites flock to Meiji Shrine to visit the iris garden
planted by Empress Shoken (wife of the Meiji emperor, who ruled from 1868-1912), which
features hundreds of different species of iris planted to resemble a river flowing through the
shrineâ€™s inner grounds.
InÂ June, festivals across Japan celebrate the puffy,
colorful hydrangeas (ajisai) that bloom in a rainbow of different hues. One of the most
famous, the Bunko Hydrangea Festival in Tokyo, takes place at Hakusan Shrine and park, and
features over 3,000 hydrangea bushes, asÂ well as painted lanterns, festival food, and sweets
designed to resemble the colorful blue and purple ajisai.
Shinobi Mystery #6
A master ninja and a Portuguese priest investigate the murder of a
samurai in medieval Kyoto.
May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no
desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of
Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with
just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution. The
investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto's floating
world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man's
dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai's death a mystery.
A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair
leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja's investigation
uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very
future of Japan.
Historical | Mystery
Historical [Seventh Street Books, On Sale: April 23, 2019,
Paperback / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9781633885448 / ]
Susan Spann is the author of seven novels in the bestselling Hiro Hattori mystery series. She
was the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writersâ€™ Writer of the Year, and has a degree in Asian
Studies, as well as a lifelong love of Japanese history, food and culture. She currently lives in
Tokyo, where she is working on an upcoming nonfiction book about mountain climbing in
Japan as well as the next installment in the Hiro Hattori mystery series.
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