Category Archives: japanese trees & plants

Varieties of Garden Landscape Flowers

I am guilty of consuming garden plants like a sweet tooth consumes candy.

The following is an account/ list of all the plants I purchased in 2016, primarily for my front ornamental garden only. The garden image of my front Japanese/ Chinese gardens can be viewed here at Kotojazz 83: the lazy man’s way to making area gardens. I also purchased a few herbs for the back yard, ranging from chamomile to parsley, fennel, mints and sage.

 

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Kampo & Chinese Medicine

The Japanese health care system is imaginatively and brilliantly eastern- western integrated and yes, supremely “ying” and “yang”. To expand on the document I published with the U.S. – Japan Foundation many years ago, the following describes kampo which is covered by health insurance providers in Japan. Japanese kampo is the study of traditional Chinese medicine that began in the 7th century. While kampo includes acupuncture and holistic wellness, herbal medicine has become the centerpiece of modern kampo. Herbal medicines have been used in China for thousands of years. They have been standardized and manufactured for widespread commercial use in Japan.

The medicinal use of plants was called the Shennong Ben Cao Jingo in China which was compiled around the end of the first century B.C. At the time, 365 species of herbs or medicinal plants were identified and classified. Chinese medical practices were introduced to Japan through Korea during the 6th century A.D. From 608 to 838, Empress Suiko dispatched young physicians to China. In those years, Japan sent 19 missions to Tang, China to research and bring back Chinese herbal medicine to Japan. Today in Japan, 148 different, mostly  herbal abstracts can be prescribed under Japan’s national health insurance system (source: National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114407/). Modern day Kampo is different from modern traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While TCM incorporates Chinese philosophy such as yin and yang, Japanese campo favors a more scientific approach.

The first volume of the treatise included 120 drugs harmless to humans, the “stimulating properties”. These herbs are described as “noble” or “upper herbs” (上品):

chineseherbs

The second volume comprise 120 therapeutic substances intended to treat the sick, but have toxic, or potentially toxic properties of varying degrees. These are tonics and boosters, whose consumption must not be prolonged. In this category, the substances are described as “human,” “commoner,” or “middle herbs” (中品):

The third volume has 125 entries containing substances which have a strong impact on physiological functions and are often poisonous. They are taken in small doses, and for the treatment of specific diseases only. They are referred to as “low herbs” (下品), these include:

Japanese/ Western Influence:

Yumoto Kyūshin (1876–1942), a graduate from Kanazawa Medical School, was a key proponent of scientifically interpreting and testing Chinese medicine. His “Japanese-Chinese Medicine” (Kōkan igaku) published in 1927 was the first book on Kampō medicine in which western medical findings were used to interpret classical Chinese texts. The significance of these Japanese publications is documenting the application of clinical trials and empirical data to determine specific chemical properties and their functions within the Chinese herbs.

Sho-Saiko-To:

One such example today is Sho-saiko-to. The Chinese herbal medicine “Sho-saiko-to” is a mixture of seven herbal preparations, which is widely administered in Japan to patients with liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Sho-saiko-to contains

  • Bupleurum Root,
  • Pinellia Tuber,
  • Scutellaria Root,
  • Ginseng,
  • Jujube,
  • Licorice, and
  • Ginger.

The herbs include such properties as baicalin and baicalein, and saikosaponin which possess anti-fibrogenic activities and the ability to inhibit hepatoma cell proliferation. Clinical trials have been confirmed in the U.S. by Natural Wellness for their SST product – http://www.naturalwellness.com/products/sho-saiko-to-sst.

The following are not connected in any way to sho-saiko-to, but are similarly organic and naturopathic. These herbs and foods are known to be easy on the liver and/or health remedies for the liver:

  • lemon/ lime,
  • avocados,
  • turmeric,
  • leafy green vegetables,
  • green tea,
  • walnuts,
  • garlic,
  • olive oil,
  • dandelion leaf,
  • beets,
  • carrots,
  • broccoli,
  • cauliflower,
  • grapefruit,
  • apples,
  • cabbage,
  • quinoa,
  • millet/ buckwheat.

Each of the 365 species of herbs and medicinal plants and various combinations from Chinese medicine and Japanese kampo are either healing agents, serve as preventive health care, or support ongoing health maintenance.

But don’t forget, there are a range of healthy remedies in standard western herbs which we already incorporate into our daily consumption extravaganzas. The standard cooking herbs pictured here are a healthy supplement to your diet.

herbgarden

By Chris Kenji Beer, Koto jazz

Sources: National Institute of Health, Japanese Society of Oriental Medicine, Natural Wellness, Wikipedia , shosaikoto.com, iherb.com.

 

KotoJazz 88: Dry Creek Rocks

A dry creek is often preferred over a creek with flowing water. It provides the visual effect of flowing water, and doesn’t require the maintenance of a flowing stream. In this case, using black creek rocks offer a striking color contrast to the green ground covers.

The sound of flowing water can be experienced by adding a simple recycling water feature, such as the mini waterfall toward the back of this mini garden.

This landscaper uses a few types of flowering ground covers along the black dry creek in the foreground accented with Japanese maples in the background.

There are three types of Japanese maples featured here. Two Japanese purple lace maples in the foreground and far rear and the canopy created by the taller green moonlight maple in the center.  Variegated hostas, an azalea, tulips, a calla lily, and mock bamboos offer nice fill ins for variety and balance.

KotoJazz 84: Low Budget Area Garden Design

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, succulents, smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licourish ferns, and the featured "dragon" weeping blue spruce pine.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine.


60-80% of a garden’s beauty can be made from resources already available around your home or among friends. Remember, nature offers its own beauty that may only need minor enhancements. I personally don’t care for regularly maintaining a yard, especially constantly mowing lawns. It just brings out the sneezing in me. Lawn mowing is among the world’s biggest wastes of water and consumes unnecessary time in my lazy, stubborn opinion. Frankly, it offers no creativity or inspiration of natural beauty.

AREA GARDENS:

We start with creating a garden image in your head. Imagine an idyllic beautiful scene in your head. Then, dig a space of dirt, any shape you want it to be. Apply that idyllic scene to this bare space. First, simply turn over the grass and put it upside down, occasionally scraping off the loose dirt to further expose the grass roots, so the grass is certain to die. Then, take cedar droppings from underneath cedar trees in the back yard and spread it throughout the dug out space. Cedar is highly acidic and will largely reduce if not eliminate the need for weeding the area garden space. Not much of anything can grow under cedars; maybe a few rhodies (rhododendrons) which thrive in acidic soil.

In the case of the above pictured garden, I dug out the entire side of the front yard off of the concrete path. I left a few “accents” of grass to provide lining for the area garden’s borders. These can be easily held at bay with an occasional weed whacking. If you want you can raise the garden, which I did for the area garden beyond the concrete path toward the top of the above photo. You can raise it as much as you like by simply adding more soil to the area and more mulch. I moved the rhody from another part of this house where it was hidden away, and is now featured in the raised garden. A general rule when creating your own garden is to place the larger items –  bushes, trees, or stones – toward the back, while shorter smaller flowers and plants should be placed toward the front. As a taller, larger bush, the rhody serves as an attractive back drop to this area garden.

BORDERS & HIGHLIGHTS:

Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.
Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.

It’s always nice to have borders for the area garden so as to define its space. Borders can be stone, bricks, slate, wood, bamboo pieces, even plants. In this case, I used stones found in the ground when digging out the garden area. As for the larger boulders highlighted around the rock creek, I was fortunate to find a friend who was excavating a part of his property and was trying to get rid of these beautiful blue-hued boulders (with more to come in later phases).  These boulders give the impression of a mountainous terrain with a valley carved  out by a rolling creek. Reinforcing this mini- mountain  scene is the meandering  creek. I place various types of sheet moss, tree moss, and fern moss on the north, more shaded side of the garden area. Eventually, all dirt areas you see in the garden will display a plant, fern, moss, or ground cover of some type to add personality.

DRY CREEK:

The dry creek appears to naturally flow between the larger boulders. Each boulder enforces a bend in the creek, as it does in natural creeks. Large creek rocks are generally placed toward the outer borders of the creek, while smaller rocks are toward the center, again mimicking these natural occurrences in nature. The creek narrows and appears to flow into a small lake in the foreground toward the street. I recommend using black creek rocks if available; otherwise, the varied colored rocks will do. To make the dry creek, I dug out the space and put in a thin layer of cedar mulch, then a thick layer of sand to prevent weeds from growing in the creek rock. Soon to come will be a natural stone recycling water feature at the beginning of the dry creek.

aviary-photo_131187409183508298

FLOWERING PLANTS & THINGS:

As for the flowering plants and things in this area garden, I looked for anything that might complement the “bones” of these area mounds. Fortunately in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plant life growing everywhere, some considered weeds in some circles. For example, ferns, wild white flowering heuchera, crocosmia, and wild blue bells grow like weeds in this region, but one can never get enough of their natural beauty.  I placed the wild heuchera on the north side and underneath the rhody where it thrives in shady areas. I scatter the wild crocosmias, blue hyacinths, and blue bells unevenly throughout the area gardens to reinforce the natural look. The blue bells and hyacinths  will flower in the spring while the crocosmias flower in late summer into autumn. I also have a relative of the ‘lamb’s ear’ ground cover which grows wild here and flowers a gorgeous deep magenta flower at the ends of each antler-like stem. I also have another ground cover that emerges a bouquet of hundreds of tiny white bulbous flowers during the summer and autumn seasons. I plan to add various types of ornamental grasses in addition to the Japanese red grass and the yellow bamboo grass clumps around the garden areas.

I have shoots of Japanese red grass planted to the side of the weeping blue cedar, tulips and other bulbous flowers not yet blooming scattered around the area gardens as well. I was gifted a rosemary to add a year round pungent aroma and a gorgeous orange rose bush.

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, the garden includes two dry creek rock gardens (one in the foreground of the featured image and the other in the background as a minimalist Zen garden), featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, a Japanese lace maple, a coral bark maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, an elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, purple asters, rhododendrons, anenome flowers, echinacea, 3 types of hellebores, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, shark tale, razor and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine in the foreground.

kenji-win_20160928_114305

PURCHASED HIGHLIGHTED ITEMS:

The low budget provided for a few highlighted features, such as the Japanese lantern, Japanese coral bark maple, the weeping blue “dragon” cedar, Chinese purple lantern flowers, two red dogwood bushes, and a few ground covers such as English daisies, heucheras, and grasses. Outside of sweat equity, the total budget was a remarkable mere $141! For the future, I plan to add another raised garden across the walkway in the front, mock bamboo, a Japanese purple lace maple, ornamental grasses, and maybe a rare plant such as an aromatic variegated pink daphne, a cone flowering hydrangea, Asian tiger lilies, or a few exotic pink or magenta Japanese anemone flowers. The blue pots can feature beautiful maples such as local vine maples, or anything that requires a controlled environment such as bamboo.

 

Japanese style rock creek garden
Japanese style rock creek garden in the making.
The "Before" photo - What the garden looked like before moving into the house.
The “Before” photo – What the garden looked like before moving into the house.

What makes a Japanese garden ?

From garden paths to architecture, fences, gravel patterns, and types of plants, this website details key distinctions of what makes a Japanese garden-

http://www.japanesegardens.jp/

 

Japanese Health Care Offers Private Sector Options

US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly

Though published so along ago, I was cleaning out the basement storage the other day, and came upon my only printed copy of US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly which was published by US-Japan Foundation and National Conference of State Legislatures (1990). I couldn’t find it anywhere. It has been referenced on a number of library websites, but no copy. I realized my co-author Dr. Bill Steslicke and I may have the only copies, along with a few die hard former legislators around the country, so here is a Word doc version. Noteworthy- 1) certain Japanese companies may form their own in-house HMO-style coverage and provisioning. 2) Japanese insurance covers eastern medicine, including but not limited to herbal remedies and acupuncture.

11 Beautiful Untranslatable Japanese Words

My favorite, Yuugen – “awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses”, and Shinrinyoku – “bathing in a deep forest”, http://theodysseyonline.com/le-moyne/11-beautiful-untranslatable-japanese-words/221351

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Koto Jazz 83: Song Stories- Wandering Rhino Bug

If our local Seattle grunge band The Presidents of the United States of America can get away with writing songs about bugs (Boll Weevil, Lady Bug), I figure I can too.

This is a fun, eclectic koto jazz tune about one of my most memorable life experiences. My brother, Uncle Yasushi and I used to go hunting, not for a rhinosaurus with a gun, but for rhinosaurus beetles with a net in rural Japan. They make for popular pets in Japan, as do so many exotic insects. The less adventurous just go to the local insect pet store, and are able to purchase them. We preferred the tree climbing approach where the “Kabuto mushi” (Rhinosaurus beetle) dwell. Unfortunately, the last of my bug collection was soaked up by the summer flood of 2014 in Boulder, Colorado.

This version was recorded live at Egan’s Jam House in Ballard last weekend, November 21st, and was one of a number of new songs I introduced at the show. Here is the recording: Wandering Rhino Bug

Wildlife and Nature Pictures – A True Respite from the Daily Grind

I find refuge and inspiration of the photos of the “Wildlife and Nature Pictures” website on Facebook. As a pretty new member of Facebook, I highly recommend this site for viewing all the beauty of nature that the world has to offer. Here is a picture of a corridor of blooming pink Cherry blossom trees in Japan:

KotoJazz 80: Mini Garden Simplicity

Here is a mini garden I started below a pink flowering dogwood that blooms fabulously in the spring (see picture below). In the tradition of Japanese gardens, the intent is to create patterns of paradise scenes often seen in the natural world. I spent a total of $7-8. Much of the splendor of this garden will not be fully seen until next year or the following year when the plants have fully grounded into their new homes [also, the strawberries on the right (photo above) will need to be replaced by moss or ground cover].

Pat'sDogwood

This mini garden features a simple rock creek flowing down from the a tall stone representing a mountain. The “mountain” stone is surrounded by large rocks or rounded mountains/ front range hills leading up to the cathedral- like mountain. Flowing from the “mountain” stones is the dry creek rock bed, with the visual effect of a true flowing mountain stream of water. Note that at each turn there are larger stones which is common in creeks. These help re-direct or guide the creek in another direction, reinforcing the natural occurrences seen in nature. The dry creek spreads wide at its base, suggesting it has reached more level ground, or perhaps a lake.

The white lantern is placed on the side of the hill surrounding by sheet moss I found in shaded areas of the yard. In the spring, I plan to add a stunning gorgeous version of moss toward the background area called the hair cap moss. There are two transplanted ferns, one in front of the lantern, and one behind the stone mountain. Though hardly noticeable today, these ferns will show a full display of leaves next spring into summer. The fern in the foreground is a common tassel fern which will experience minimal growth in size, while the sword fern I planted behind the mountain stone will grow to a size potentially twice the height and size of the mountain stone.

Other plants include a few strawberry plants in the foreground (not recommended; these were pre-existing plants placed there by the owner) and a spider flower to the left which flowers a resplendent deep purple in the late spring to early summer, and is now passed its prime and going dormant for the fall season. Also to the left showing simple iris-like leaves is the common orange crocosmia, which grows naturally throughout the Pacific Northwest. Finally, for effect, I planted the Acorus cascading yellow grass. The acorus next year will be a bright yellow cascade that will contrast nicely with this shaded area. There are two in the foreground. These are off shoots, so will not show their true cascading splendor until next summer.

KotoJazz 79: Japanese Ferns

The most popular of Japanese ferns is the Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium niponicum). The fern is known for its resplendent silvery green to misty light blue and maroon colored leaves. The silver green fern leaves meld into a light maroon to purple color toward the center of each fern leaf. It flourishes in a moist, partial to full shade environment. They are ideal for shaded walk ways as ground cover, garden accents, and any foreground features, as they normally do not grow very large nor tall (at most 18-24 inches). Once it takes hold in a garden, it becomes relatively low maintenance so long as it is planted in a nicely shaded area, such as the foreground of a Japanese maple tree.

An Evening of Elegance: 55th Anniversary Garden Party at the Japanese Garden

This anniversary party was filled with positive interactions with the attendees between breaks and after my performance. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people intrigued by and find enjoyment from my music, but on a broader level, Japanese culture. It’s so good to be connected to such a wonderful, kind, generous, forgiving, and loving community in Seattle.

As I played the third song of the night, Tomio Moriguchi, otherwise known as “Mr. Uwajimaya”, came up to me and said he loved the first piece I played, Sakura, and of course I obliged to play it again. A true honor to have known you Tomio through the years, first meeting you in the early 90s karaoking with you and the late Joyce Yoshikawa at Bush Garden, getting caught up at the Bon Odori through the years, your reminders of how much you appreciated my sister Kimberley’s summer JAS programs with your family (yes Kimberley, Tomio asks about you every time!) and now, how could one not play a song for your memory in such a magical setting as Seattle’s Japanese garden! For the person who quite possibly brought more Japanese food and gifts to America than anyone in America! Domo, domo, domo. The people of Seattle’s Japanese Garden, so many of the attendees such as Tomio, The Sasakis (Cherry Blossom Festival and Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble) have colored this city of Seattle with the beautiful wonders of Japanese arts and culture for which I am eternally grateful.

Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum
Setting up at the Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum

University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden
University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden

The koto tunes I played at this event were:

  • My Sakura,
  • Haru No Umi (The Sea in Springtime),
  • Tori No Yo Ni (Like A Bird),
  • Aki No Hou (Toward Autumn Season), and
  • Tide Pools And Waves (Shiyodamari to Nami).
  • Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.


    I was immediately followed by a traditional Japanese dance by Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble (pictured here):

    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum. I saw familiar faces at the event, including Tazue Sasaki of the Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble, her husband Yutaka Sasaki, and members of the Japanese Consulate.