Asuka Historical Park: Man’yō Botanical Garden Road

Steps on the Botanical Garden Road
Steps on the Botanical Garden Road

Name

国営飛鳥歴史公園:万葉植物園路
こくえいあすかれきしこうえん:まんようしょくぶつえんろ
Asuka Historical Park: Man’yō Botanical Garden Road

Location

Asuka, Nara Prefecture

Address

The park is too large to have a single address.

Opening Hours

The park is open permanently.

Contact

TEL:0744-54-2441 (Japanese only).

Website

Asuka Historical Park:
http://www.asuka-park.go.jp/asuka_en/index.html

Man’yō Botanical Garden Road:
http://www.asuka-park.go.jp/asuka_en/manyo/

Access

Details on how to reach the Asuka Historical Park via a variety of routes can be found on here.  The park itself is enormous, and its various sections are most easily reached by car, or rental bicycle after arriving in Asuka.

The Man’yō Botanical Garden Road is located in the Amakashi no Oka 甘樫丘 area of the park. To reach this by public transport, travel to Kintetsu Kashiharajingūmae 橿原神宮前 station. Leave the station by the East exit, and board the Asuka Tour Bus (Aka-kame) 明日香周遊バス・赤かめ from bus stop no. 2 (a timetable for this (Japanese) can be found here). Leave the bus at Amakashi no Oka 甘樫丘, and you will be in front of the Toyo’ura Rest Stop (toyo’ura kyūkeijo 豊浦休憩所) which acts as a gateway to the Amakashi no Oka area of the park, and is a short walk from the start of the Man’yō Botanical Garden Road.

Description

A Man'yō poem (MYS I: 51) by Prince Shiki (d. 716)
A Man’yō poem (MYS I: 51) by Prince Shiki (d. 716)

The Man’yō Botanical Road – although ‘trail’ might be a better term – starts from near the Toyo’ura Rest Stop, and follows a winding circular path around the Amakashi no Oka area of the park. The entire 2.3 kilometres takes about an hour to walk, although it is possible to leave the path earlier (see here for a map). Some sections are tarmacked and easy to walk – others are gravel, or stepped. The forty Man’yō plants are well spaced out along the path, and surrounded by trees and other greenery. The plants are labeled (in Japanese), but the name of the plant is concealed, so one can enjoy guessing, if so inclined. Each label also has a QR code attached, which one can use via one’s smartphone to access more information – again in Japanese only at present. There are two observation spots along the path, which afford superb views over the Asuka area, as well as resting places. When I visited it was, unfortunately, raining, which had kept all but the most hardy visitors away, but even so, it was a most pleasant way to enjoy Japan’s historic natural environment. Of all the gardens I visited in July 2015, this was the one with the best (online) materials in English for non-Japanese-speaking visitors, and there are also tourist information materials available about the park generally in a wide variety of languages.

History

The Asuka region can be thought of as the cradle of what is now known as Japanese civilisation, and as such is filled with sites of historical and cultural significance, including a large number of tumuli. Rapid urbanisation during Japan’s high-speed economic growth period of the 1960s, however, meant that development was encroaching on this historic landscape and it was in danger of being lost forever. As a result, the government took the decision to establish Asuka Historical Park in the early 1970s to prevent further development and preserve the landscape and its cultural and historical legacy for the future.

The park itself occupies some sixty hectares, divided into five discrete sections:

  • Iwaido 祝戸, surrounding the historic Mounts Miwa and Fuguri
  • Ishibutai 石舞台, surrounding the Ishibutai tumulus;
  • Amakashi no Oka 甘樫丘, which contains the Man’yō Botanical Garden Road, and the best natural environment in the park
  • Takamatsuzuka shūhen 高松塚周辺, containing the Takamatsuzuka and Nakaozan tumuli; and
  • Kitora kofun shūhen キトラ古墳周辺: this last section is a more recent addition, as the Kitora tumulus was only discovered in 1983, and is still being prepared for public access and viewing at time of writing [2015].

The Man’yō Botanical Garden Road was created in the early 1970s as the park was constructed, and situated in Amakashi no Oka due to the area’s natural beauty. From the outset, the intention was not to create a complete collection of Man’yō plants, but to focus on those which would be easy to cultivate and maintain, while also fitting in with the natural ecology of the Asuka region. The result is that the road follows a 2.3 kilometre path through Amakashi no Oka, with a total of 40 Man’yō plants situated periodically along it.

Plants and Associated Poems

Tsuki
Japanese zelkova
MYS XI: 2656
Shikimi
Japanese star anise
MYS XX: 4476
Ichihi
Red bark oak
MYS XVI: 3885
Kashi
Japanese blue oak
Kojiki
Yuzuruha
Daphniphyllum
MYS II: 111
Tsubaki
Japanese camelia
MYS I: 54
Yamajisa
Japanese snowbell
MYS VII: 1360
Shirakashi
Bamboo leaf oak
MYS X: 2315
Yamabuki
Kerria
MYS II: 158
Hi
Japanese cypress
MYS VII: 1092
Kazunoki
Sumac
MYS XIV: 3432
Kusunoki Nihon Shoki
Tsuki
Japanese zelkova
MYS VII: 1331
Tsuki
Japanese zelkova
MYS II: 141
Hisaki
Red oak
MYS VI: 925
Nire
Lacebark elm
MYS XVI: 3886
Mayumi
Spindletree
MYS VII: 1330
Konara
Konara oak
MYS XIV: 3424
Mukunoki Kojiki
Nebu
Persian silk tree
MYS VIII: 1461
Sumomo
Japanese plum
MYS XIX: 4140
Ajisai
Big leaf hydrangea
MYS XX: 4448
Maki Nihon Shoki
Sashibu Kojiki
Tsuge
Japanese box
MYS IX: 1777
Kuchinashi Nihon Shoki
Sakikusa
Barrenwort
MYS X: 1895
Ashibi
Japanese pieris
MYS X: 1903
Shii
Chinquapin
MYS II: 142
Kashiwa
Daimyō oak
MYS XI: 2478
Sakaki
Sakaki
MYS III: 379
Sugi
Sugi
MYS II: 156
Soba Kojiki
MYS X: 1096
Maki MYS II: 90
Ichisakaki Kojiki
Kawayanagi
Pussy willow
MYS VII: 1293
Katsura
Katsura
MYS VII: 1359
Yanagi
Willow
MYS X: 1896
E
Hackberry
MYS XVI: 3872

'Simply moving and elegant'