Ehime Man’yō Garden
Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture
5-27-54 Kinuyama, Matsuyama, Ehime, 791-8025
The garden is open permanently.
TEL：089-925-2524 (Japanese only).
Ehime Man’yōen is located in the grounds of Ehime Gokoku shrine (Ehime gokoku jinja 愛媛護国神社), and can be reached by either tram or bus (or taxi – ask the driver to take you to Ehime gokoku jinja as this is better known than the Man’yō Garden).
From JR Matsuyama Station (JR松山駅), take the No. 1 Loop line (kanjōsen 環状線) (trams depart approximately every 10 minutes during the day), and get off at the Red Cross Hospital (sekijūji byōin mae 赤十字病院前) stop (the journey should take about 18 minutes). Walk north from the tram stop for about 5 minutes, keeping the hospital buildings on your right, and the Ehime University campus on your left, and you will see the large, concrete shrine gate (torii 鳥居) marking the entrance to Ehime Gokoku Shrine (pictured below).
Continue to walk north, until you come to a second, smaller gate, marking the entrance to the shrine grounds themselves. Turn left along the road here until you come to the next entrance, signed for the Miyuki Kaikan (みゆき会館), enter here, and the Man’yō Garden will be immediately in front of you.
Take the Tōzai line (東西線) from bus stop no. 1 bound for Dōgo onsen eki mae (道後温泉駅前), and get off at Gokoku jinja mae (護国神社前). The journey should take about 15 minutes, but the bus only runs every few hours on weekdays only, so the tram is the best way of reaching the garden.
Ehime Man’yōen covers approximately one hectare, bordered by the grounds of the Gokoku Shrine on its right, and the Miyuki Kaikan building on the left. From the main entrance a path leads directly into the garden with beds packed with Man’yō plants on either side, and a variety of side-paths leading off to allow one to explore the beds in more detail. As one moves further into the garden, the ground slopes upwards, leading to further plants, and a variety of memorials to Japan’s war dead, with benches before them where you can take your ease. You can then descend to the garden’s central, open area, where a pine tree forms a centrepiece, surrounded by beds with a further variety of Man’yō plants. All the plants are marked and accompanied by poems, but only in Japanese script.
When I visited, early one weekday morning in July, the garden was almost deserted, but the Man’yōen has active programmes of community engagement, so at other times of the year you might encounter local schoolchildren helping to clear the fallen leaves, or even a visiting academic being interviewed by the local news media! Of course, it will also be busier in the spring and autumn during the cherry blossom and autumn leaf-viewing seasons. Given the garden’s location, most visitors will combine a visit to the shrine with one to the garden, and many are family members of the dead enshrined there.
For me, after walking to the garden in the July heat, it was a relief to enter the shade and wander between the trees and other plants, examining the poems and resting on the benches by the memorials. Compared to the other gardens, it is a somewhat more sombre experience, as one is reminded of Japan’s unquiet past, but equally how the beauties of literature can be a comfort in terrible times: one of my informants, a ninety year-old veteran, pulled out a paperback copy of the Man’yōshū while we were talking, and told me how he took it with him when sent to war, and reading the poetry helped take his mind off the battlefield.
A botanical garden was first established and completed at Ehime Gokoku Shrine in October 1953. Called Ehime Gokoku Shrine Birthplace Botanical Garden (Ehime gokoku jinja kyōdo shokubutsuen 愛媛護国神社郷土植物園), this garden was envisaged as a means of consoling the spirits of the dead enshrined there and so contained 320 different varieties of plants gathered from villages across the prefecture where the war dead had originated.
Subsequently, as a way of marking the one hundredth anniversary since Japan’s modern era began, a stone engraved with a poem by Princess Nukata (額田王) (MYS I: 8) was placed in the garden in December 1967, 150 varieties of Man’yō plants were collected, and it was renamed the Man’yō Garden in 1968.
The poem in question is one of four in the Man’yōshū which can be identified has having been composed in the locality, and has a relatively clear historical context.
In 661, Emperor Saimei 斉明天皇 (594-661; r. 655-661) despatched military forces from Yamato to aid the Korean kingdom of Paekche. A force of approximately 27,000 set out from Naniwa (present day Osaka) on the sixth day of the First Month 661, and arrived at what is now Dōgo hot-springs on the fourteenth. After making further preparations, the force was due to set sail for Chikushi 筑紫 (present day Kyushu) on the 22nd day of the Third Month, but was delayed until the 23rd by strong tides. The emperor commanded Nukata to produce a poem for the departure ceremony on the evening of the 22nd and she composed:
puna norisemu to
sipo mo kanapinu
ima pa kogi’ide na
Would we set sail, and
Did await the moon, but
With the tides against us
Now must we go a’rowing!
The force arrived in Kyushu on the 25th day of the Third Month, however, Saimei was to die there in the Seventh Month, and the Yamato forces were completely defeated at Kumgang two years later, so the mission was a failure.
The garden has been maintained, although only 97 of the original 150 Man’yō plants have survived to the present, as a reminder of Japan’s cultural and spiritual past in today’s increasingly individualistic and mechanistic civilisation. The people running the garden wish to make part of the modern world ‘the spirit of the Man’yōshū, which melds Humanity and Nature, recalls people with fond affection, and moves the heart with a simple mention of a single roadside flower’.