Man’yō Forest Park

The park's Man'yō museum and resource centre
The park’s Man’yō museum and resource centre

Name

万葉の森公園
まんようのもりこうえん
Man’yō no mori kōen
Man’yō Forest Park

Location

Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture

Address

〒434-0041浜松市浜北区平口5051-1
5051-1 Hirakuchi, Hamakita-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, 434-0041

Opening Hours

The park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

While the park is open every day, the museum is closed every Monday, or the following working day when Monday is a public holiday, and over the New Year Holiday period (29 December-3 January).

Contact:

Tel: 053-586-8700 (Japanese only).
Email: hamamatsu.p-g.asso@coral.ocn.ne.jp (Japanese only)

Website:

http://www.hama-park.or.jp/f-kanri/f-manyo/manyo.html
The website (Japanese) provides a brief description of the park’s facilities, information on opening hours, contact details and access.

Access

The park is most easily reached by car, and is about 20 minutes’ drive from the Hamamatsu-Hamamatsu Nishi (浜松・浜松西) interchange on the Tōmei Expressway.

Visitors using public transport from Hamamatsu have two options: take the Enshū Railway 遠州鉄道 line from Shinhamamatsu 新浜松 station to Hamakita 浜北 station (a journey of about 20 minutes) and then take a taxi to the park from there (about 10 minutes); or, take the Entetsu Bus (遠鉄バス) no. 61 bound for Kamijima-Uchinodai-Sansutoriito Hamakita (上島内野台サンストリート浜北) from stand 12 at Hamamatsu station, and get off at Green Arena Entrance (guriin ariinaa iriguchiグリーンアりーナ入口) near the end of the line, opposite Netto Toyota Shizuhama (ネットトヨタ静浜). Walk up the road to the nearby Sōgō tai’iku kan minami (総合体育館南) crossroads. Cross over the road, and continue in the same direction, keeping the football pitch on your left, until you reach the next crossroads, Hirakuchi (平口). Cross over the road again here, but turn left, and then take the second right hand turn, and walk up the road past Risaikuru kuriin hamakita (リサイクルクリーン浜北) recycling company, until you come to a left hand turn. Take this road, and you will pass the Fudōji (不動寺) temple on your right, followed swiftly by the entrance to Man’yō Forest Park. The entire walk should take approximately 15 minutes.

Description

The stream through the park
The stream through the park

Man’yō Forest Park is entered through an imposing gate, and set behind walls, so on entering one has a sudden feeling of moving into a separate and tranquil natural space. The heart of the park is a landscaped hill divided by a small stream, used for Kyokusui (see below), and used to display one of the local poems carved into an impressive boulder. Walking along the path further into the park, one has the museum and other park buildings on the right, and then a choice of different paths to take, each leading to different sections of the park, with different types of plants displayed in each. Man’yō plants are accompanied by a variety of different types of plaques: some just giving the name of a plant, its usage and flowering period (if relevant) and a sample poem, while others provide more information, such as images of the plant in other locations, or suggestions about the opinion held of the plant by famous poets. The park management is concerned not to stand still, but to come up with new ways to make the culture of the Man’yō period accessible to visitors – I was told when I visited in July 2015, that the next project would be a display of Man’yō fragrances, so they were busy cultivating those plants which provided the strongest scents.

Overall, Man’yō Forest Park does reward the visitor who makes the effort to get to it. The plants are well displayed, the is plenty of additional information (mainly in Japanese, of course, but the park has produced a brief handout in English, too), and there are many rest spots throughout the garden where one can contemplate the scene, plants and poems, to say nothing of the opportunity to taste Man’yō cuisine if one is organised and visits in a group. When I visited, early on a weekday in July to avoid the heat of the day, there were few visitors, although the members of the Tsukikusa no kai (see below), were present, stripping leaves from Man’yō period tea, ready for drying and preparation.

History

One of Hamakita's local poems
One of Hamakita’s local poems

Man’yō Forest Park was set up in 1992 as a joint venture between a private company and Hamamatsu city government. At the time, it was central government policy to encourage the greening of Japan’s urban spaces, and so local governments were provided with central funds to invest in park construction. Hamamatsu took a decision at this point to promote itself as a ‘Green Town’ (midori no machi 緑の町), and create Man’yō Forest Park, among other facilities. A Man’yō park was chosen for the Hamakita area due to its pre-existing links with the anthology: four poems included in the collection (MYS XI: 2530, MYS XIV: 3353, MYS XIV: 3354 and MYS XX: 4322) were known to have been composed locally, and the display of two of these poems (MYS XIV: 3354 and MYS XX: 4322), newly carved in original script (man’yōgana) on natural stone slabs formed the park’s centrepieces. Other poems for display with the plants in the park were chosen by the park’s employees, with the primary criteria being that the poems should be as well-known as possible and, ideally, pose few difficulties in comprehension for visitors, who were not expected to be experts in the language of the Man’yō period.

From the start, the intention was to be eclectic in the collection of the park’s botanical specimens, and present all the possible versions of Man’yō plants according to different theories, with the result that the collection now contains approximately 300 different species, and 5000 specimens. Simultaneously, there was a desire for the park to form a focus for both educational and local activities, so a small museum, workshop and tea-room were also constructed, and made available to local groups. This resulted in the formation of a Man’yō cuisine study group, Tsukikusa no kai (月草の会) in 1993 and, since 1994 they have provided Man’yō period meals to visitors to the park (advance reservation necessary; groups of four or larger).

In 2004, twelve years after its foundation, the park was expanded, and now covers approximately 23,000 m2. It continues to be a focus for the local community, and every year at the beginning of October runs a Kyokusui (曲水) Festival. This was a court event where chosen poets would be seated beside a stream, and a cup of sake floated down it. When the cup reached each poet, he or she would take the cup, drink the sake, recite a poem composed for the occasion, and float the cup down to the next poet. The event was most common in post-Man’yō times, however, at Man’yō Forest Park local head teachers or city council members are invited to dress in Man’yō period costume and play the poets, while school children assist them as attendants. Performers of traditional court music, and singers of the Man’yōshū also attend.

Plants and Poems

In the park’s publicity materials, there is a focus on just a few poems associated with flowering plants, although, of course, others can be found displayed around the park. These key plants and poems are:

Katakago MYS XIX: 4143
Netsukogusa MYS XIV: 3508
Tachibana MYS VI: 1009
Murasaki MYS I: 21
Himeyuri MYS VIII: 1500
Nubatama MYS II: 89
Ominaeshi MYS XVII: 3944
Hagi MYS XX: 4318
Fujibakama MYS VIII: 1538
Kaerude MYS VIII: 1623
Ume MYS V: 822
Tsubaki MYS I: 54

'Simply moving and elegant'