|In 1823, Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German physician, arrived in Japan and began a remarkable career working for the Netherlands East India Company. He made an immense contribution to the study of Japanese flora and fauna by collecting extensive samples during his stay. Included in his collection is the "kakkoso" or Primula Kisoana miquel, a flower known to exist only in the Kiryu area and now in danger of extinction.
The following articles were written by Akiko Minosaki, a journalist employed by the Kiryu Times and appeared in series format in the newspaper. She tells the remarkable history of this lovely spring flower and its long journey which ended in the National Herbarium Nederland.
In the beginning...
I set out on a journey to Leiden in the Netherlands to see Kiryu's primula, "kakko-so", for myself. I had heard that a kakko-so specimen had been carried back to Europe by von Siebold was preserved there, but until now no one had actually confirmed this report.
Tracing its path, I found the specimen reposing in the archives of the Rijksherbarium (National Herbarium Nederland). There it was - after the passage of 170 years and a journey halfway around the world. The pink hue of the blossoms had been frozen in time along with its distinctive deep green hairy leaves. The flower, named by Miquel was inscribed there in Von Siebold's and Miquel's own hands. I was filled with awe at the sight.
Narukami Mountain (979.7 m) is the sole habitat of the Kiryu "kakko-so" - a perennial of the Primula genus. Its violet-pink flowers bloom in the shady environment of the woodlands late April to early May. Tucked into the mountain glen, the plants appear in clusters, their minute details revealing the plant's uniqueness, including its double petaled blossoms. The position and length of the flower's pistils and stamens are of two types. It has only recently been discovered that "toramaru" bees (Bombus diversus Smith) act as intermediaries, carrying pollen from the flower stamen to the pistils to produce seeds.
However, the plant is now on the brink of extinction. Its only habitat is challenged by invasive cedar planting coupled with continued theft of the plant itself from its native habitat by trekkers. This condition is further exacerbated by the construction of woodland roads. Conservationists have long voiced the need for preservation. Attempts to help the plant proliferate through bio-technology continue, however, the future of the primula remains uncertain. This is not just the problem of one flowering plant. Under these conditions, it is important to research the history in which the Kiryu primula is entwined.
The Kiryu primula, "Kakkoso" was first identified as a new species and assigned scientific nomenclature when von Siebold carried it back to Europe in a volume of plant specimens. The name was given a year after he died in Munich, exactly 130 years ago. According to a text written by the director of the Rijksherbarium, Miquel, the plant was first introduced to the world with the scientific name of "Primula kisoana". The name indicates that the plant is a variety of "sakura-so", originating from the Kiso area. I decided to go to see the specimen for myself in order to further investigate this puzzle.
I found the specimen in the Rijksherbarium archive preserved on a standardized 50X30 cm pasteboard. The word "katsukosau" is written in katakana in India ink on the cover of a trifolded piece of Japanese paper. Unfolding the folio, one finds the specimens have been mounted with great care, and includes 2 flower stems and 2 leaves, displaying front and back sides. On the other side of the folio, there is a small piece of Japanese paper with the word, "katsukosau" written in katakana in the right margin. Above this paper, a paper pocket has been mounted in which a flower is preserved. One can only wonder when it had been picked.
Near the bottom of the cover is a label on which Miquel has written the scientific nomenclature for the flower and a note that it is from the collection of "Keisuke" (Keisuke Ito). In addition, the blue label found on the lower right corner of the cover has been written in von Siebold's own hand. He also seemed to believe that it was a new variety and inscribed the name "Primula hirsuta S." on it. The name indicates that the plant is a variety of primula with particularly hairy leaves and stems. Under these words, von Siebold wrote that the plant originates from "a high mountain in the Kizo area." Miquel assigned the scientific nomenclature based on von Siebold's "Kizo" inscription. In the same way, the name, "Primula ezoana," a large sakura-so from the collection of Sukeroku Mizutani, was assigned to the primula originating from "Jezo" (now Hokkaido).
Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), a medical doctor, was posted to Nagasaki - Dejima from 1823 to 1829 as a second lieutenant of the Netherlands East India Company. From the publication of "Kaitai Shinsho" (the first Japanese language text on human anatomy translated from the Dutch volume, Tafel Anatomia, ) and for the next 50 years, the study of Western science by means of the Dutch language flourished. Von Siebold was known not only for his knowledge of Western medicine, he also taught natural history to the Japanese. At the same time, Von Siebold actively collected a great variety of specimens of Japanese flora and fauna along with samples of Japanese arts and crafts, items from daily life and various folklore materials. In so doing, he managed to inform Europeans of the high standards of Japanese culture.
From his late twenties and into his early thirties, that is to say, while still a young man, he was able to amass a truly astounding collection of articles during his 6 year stay. In the search for fame, he received the support of many Japanese. Of all the areas of Japanese studies, however, Von Siebold was most passionately interested in the study of Japanese botany and information was shared in both directions. The "kakko-so" specimen sample is an example of this exchange of knowledge.
Sonshin Okochi and his borther, Keisuke Ito, along with the teacher Hobun Mizutani (also known as Sukeroku) all first met Von Siebold in 1826 at Atsuta, a shrine Von Siebold visited on his way to Edo. Von Siebold wrote in his journal, translated by Shin Saito, that he recalled this meeting. Sukeroku, "came carrying in his hand all manner of natural objects. Among them were several extremely rare plants from the area around the shrine. They were preserved in a very fine specimen album. In it, the plants' Japanese and Chinese names were recorded. ( The name written in hiragana and with Chinese characters.) I instructed M.Z. (Mizutani) in some of the more important aspects of botanical anatomy in exchange for a collection of all the region's rarest plants."
One wonders from this account whether Von Siebold procured the Kiryu primula specimen as a present on this occasion. "Before the arrival of Von Siebold, the techniques for gathering an academic collection of botanical specimens were unknown. There was a tendency to make small, easy to carry specimen books that were convenient to use," reports Takao Yamaguchi, an assistant professor at Kumamoto University.
According to Dr. Yoshishige Kato, a professor at Dokkyo University, who has encountered many of Sukeroku's specimen books, based on the size of the Japanese paper used, the attachment of a smaller piece of paper and the handwriting, "one can conclude that this is indeed Sukeroku's work." Incidentally, Sukeroku, at the age of 27, was permitted the use of medicinal herbs from the Herbal Garden in the Owari Domain (now Aichi Prefecture) and collected plants from other domains. He hoped to surpass the level of botanical scientists of his time and was enthusiastically involved in "rangaku" or the study of Western science by means of the Dutch language, a popular pursuit during the Edo period.
Unfortunately, the Kiryu primula specimen does not contain the entire plant. Specifically, the roots have not been included. It can be surmised that the specimen samples were made before Sukeroku met Von Siebold. At the time, Sukeroku was 47 years old. In Leiden, the well-known Keisuke Ito, called "Kaisuke" by the Dutch, was 23 years old.
Paying a visit to the Rijksherbarium in Leiden was easier said than done. Once I actually got there, however, I was totally taken by surprise. The reason is that the building itself is an impressively modern blue glass pyramid. The Rijksherbarium took over the building after a computer company ceased production. Since 1995, the structure has been the home of the Leiden University National Environment Research Facility, the Botanical Specimens Collection, a library, and various research laboratories. The building has been named in honor of a deceased former director of the Rijksherbarium, Prof. Van Steenis, and is located in Leiden's new "science zone."
The Rijksherbarium itself, unlike most museums of natural history, is not open to the public. I was extremely fortunate to receive a guided tour by Prof. Cornelis Kalkman, a former director. Prof. Kalkman has visited Japan in order to attend the von Siebold Symposium held at Hosei University. Before traveling to the Netherlands, I interviewed Prof. Minoru Omori of Hosei University, who kindly wrote a letter of introduction for me.
While Prof. Kalkman was director of the Rijksherbarium, the specimen collection was housed partly in an old textile factory in downtown Leiden and partly in the old university library. The ability to control air quality in the new building coupled with its large size makes the facility a safe repository for the specimen collection. Upon inquiring about the size of the collection, I was told there were some 4 million specimens! Even so, there is still space available to accommodate growth.
According to a letter sent to Prof. Kalkman's home and Prof. Omori's letter of introduction, the item we were searching for was unambiguous. Amidst the moveable and fixed shelving aligned in rows, a box containing the primula genus specimens was in its designated place. We removed the items from the box related to von Siebold and studied them in detail in Prof. Kalkman's office. I was also able to take photographs of the specimens. Since the Siebold collection is divided up and housed among the other specimen books in the Rijksherbarium, Prof. Omori and other Japanese researchers, despite repeated visits, have yet to see the collection in its entirety.
Prof. Takao Yamaguchi of Kumamoto University and Prof. Yoshishige Kato of Dokkyo University began to research the whole von Siebold collection in 1995. Included are von Siebold materials at the Leiden National Museum of Ethnology and the Makino Specimen Archive attached to the Tokyo Metrpolitan University in Hachioji. It is said that specimens collected by von Siebold exist in Munich, Germany and in St. Petersburg, Russia as well.
In order to fully understand von Siebold's activities while he was in Japan, the study of botany alone is insufficient. A kakko-so painted by Keiga Kawahara, a Dejima artist, is held in a collection in St. Petersburg. I was thoroughly impressed by the specimens which I found in Leiden and felt greatly relieved to know of the primula's safe repose there.
Upon seeing the research materials at the Rijksherbarium, I recalled my sense of pride. Toward the close of the Edo Period, various botanical specimens from around the country appeared before von Siebold's eyes as though he had opened a great treasure box. My emotions swelled when I found the word "kakko-so" (primula kisoana).
I was given a tour of the Special Archive Room by Prof. Kalkman and Ms. Stans Kofman, the manager of the phanerograms collection. Here we found the 14 Japanese bound volumes of botanical specimens presented by Keisuke Ito and the wood samples collection of Tokunai Mogami, known as an explorer of the Ezo region (now Hokkaido). In addition, there were also dried specimen volumes preserved in glass jars - my interest knew no bounds.
One strange specimen caught my eye. On its label I read "Nikojuyo in Nikko". "Nikujuyo" is a parasitic plant used for drugs. According to Prof. Omori's judgment, this label was written by Keisuke. On the label, Keisuke wrote that one can journey from Nikko Yunotaira through the Konsei Mountain Pass to Numata. These points coincide with the places mentioned in his journal. He journeyed from Nikko to Numata, then, after collecting specimens at Mt. Haruna, he passed through Shinshu (now Nagano Prefecture) and returned to Nagoya. From there, he did not delay in going on to Nagasaki to meet von Siebold in 1827. These specimens, however, have yet to be examined by a researcher. "Our research is still incomplete," repeated Ms. Kofman. It seems they are hoping to find a researcher who can read Japanese. The "kakko-so" has yet to be studied as well.
In the archive there is also an approximately 33 X 23.5 cm. fan-folded specimen collection in 4 volumes entitled, "Zigzag Book", composed by Kaizo Hirai. The specimens are entered in "iroha" order (old Japanese alphabetical sequence) and total 704 in all. In the second volume of the series, I discovered a page on which the flower shape was described in India ink and inscribed with the word, "sakura-so." In addition, there was a label made of Japanese paper on which the word, "kakko-so" was written in red ink. I tried to calm my pounding heart as I lifted the paper. However, what I found upon turning it over was just a leaf, stem and root specimen of poor quality. I said to myself, "This isn't kakko-so!" The leaf did not bear the characteristic hairs of Kiryu's primula. The word written in red was the editing of another person. von Siebold himself had inscribed the number on the pasteboard to which it had been attached.
Kaizo Hirai (1809-1883) was born in Mikawa. Before von Siebold was posted to Nagasaki, Hirai traveled there to receive instruction from a physician in Dejima. Hirai made the specimen collection while still in his teens, however, one cannot question his enthusiasm when one sees how he carefully sorted, arranged and catalogued his collection.
Although obviously sections of the "Zigzag Book" had been cut out, the specimen had been remounted on a different pasteboard and used for research, according to Asst. Prof. Yamaguchi of Kumamoto University. Seeing the specimen was worth the trouble even if only to view the label on which the word, "kakko-so" was written. The reason for this is that the people living in the vicinity of Narukami Mountain at that time did not call the flower "kakko-so," but rather, "sakura-so." The name "kakko-so" first appeared during the Edo Period where it was written in a picture book of garden plants called Chikinsho-furoku by Iheimasatake Ito. Written in 1783, the volume contains a drawing of a plant named "kakko-so." This word, however, was not known in Kiryu until the Showa Period, around the year 1933.
I found von Siebold's house in downtown Leiden. It was a 3 storey building facing a canal, located not far from the Hortus Botanicus. A gold plate was mounted on the building, by which I was able to recognize the building as von Siebold's. On it was written, "Here lived Dr. Philippe F. B. von Siebold from 1836 to 1847." I was pleased to find the inscription in Japanese as well. One hundred and fifty years ago, von Siebold lived in this house and walked with dignity on the stone road on his way to the Rijksherbarium. One can easily envision such a scene in this old, established city. Returning from my mental wanderings, it occurred to me that people seemed to be passing in and out of the building in a fairly steady stream. So, without further ado, I opened the heavy door of the house. I noticed something that appeared to be a waiting room on the right side of a passage that led through the garden in back. I stopped a person coming down the stairs and asked, "Is this the house in which von Siebold lived?" The woman called to another man who replied, "Yes, this is where he lived, however, nothing of von Siebold's remains here. If you wish to find materials about von Siebold, you should go to the National Museum of Ethnology or to the Rijksherbarium." "Thank you," I responded, "I have already been there. By the way, what is this building used for now?" "It is a facility related to the Court," he kindly informed me, and after shaking hands we parted company.
In December of 1829, von Siebold was expelled from Japan. A ship on which he had placed contraband books and maps ran ashore in a typhoon. When the items were discovered, the case became known as the "von Siebold incident" and resulted in his deportation. The following year, he returned to Holland by way of Batavia. However, his enormous collection was housed in various locations, including Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. In order to avoid riots arising from the Belgian independence movement, von Siebold fortunately had the collection moved to Leiden. Great pains were taken there to preserve the specimens from insect infestation and to properly box them since it was considered a valuable collection.
von Siebold published the first volume of his compendium entitled, Nippon, an Archive for the Description of Japan in 1832. The following year saw the publication of the Fauna Japonica. In addition, he planned the publication of a Flora Japonica. Given the grand scale of these projects, von Siebold set out on a tour of the courts of Europe and various wealthy merchants in order to raise money.
In 1835, with the collaboation of Zuccarini, he co-authored Flora Japonica in which 10 illustrations are printed. Dr. von Siebold, having moved to the house in Leiden, was surely in high spirits. The French language publication of Flora Japonica makes full use of von Siebold's raw data collected during his stay in Japan, reports Prof. Hideaki Oba of Tokyo University in a book entitled, von Siebold's Japanese Plants (a translation of Flora Japonica into Japanese) (Yasaka Publishers, 1996). The manner in which plants were used by ordinary persons and knowledge of them is a form of folk botany which cannot be substituted for. In botanical history, this knowledge is invaluable, although limited to the Bunsei Period of the Edo Era." he explains.
von Siebold's specimens and plant drawings were most useful in making the beautiful illustrations for Flora Japonica. Unfortunately, there are less than 150 of them and regretfully, Kiryu's primula, the kakko-so, is not included among them.
Philip Franz von Siebold
The scientific nomenclature for "kakko-so", "Primula kisoana," first appeared 130 years ago, in 1867. The co-author of Flora Japonica, J.G. Zuccarini, died in 1848. von Siebold, himself, passed away in 1866. Their work was passed on to Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel (1811-1871).
As the second director of the Rijksherbarium, Miquel undertook an extensive investigation of the specimens. Writing "An Essay on Japanese Botany" in the Rijksherbarium Annual, he recorded that there were four varieties of primula. Among them, two (kakko-so and osakura-so) were new varieties which he himself named. They were "Primula kisoana" and "Primula ezoana," both of which names remained valid when the International Agreement on Nomenclature was later approved. Scientific Type, was based on a specimen catalogue which von Siebold had carried back from Japan.
A subsequent work of Miquel's, Catalogue, published in 1870, proved to be an immensely valuable tool for later scientists. In this work, Miquel compiled the number of specimens contributed by von Siebold and his collaborators, Keisuke Ito, Sukeroku Mizutani, Burger, and Maximowicz for each species. In the Catalogue, "kisoana" is identified as K (Keisuke)1. However, as was explained in a previous article, we now know that this specimen was actually contributed by Sukeroku. However, this does not change the fact that there is indeed only one kisoana.
One hundred and thirty years have now passed and a newspaper journalist has traveled from Japan in search of one specimen in particular among the vast collection of over 4 million specimens. Both Prof. Kalkman and Ms. Kofman are mystified by my search. "According to von Siebold, the plant was said to be native to Kiso, however, there is no other record establishing Kiso as its native environment. At present, Mt. Narukami in my hometown, Kiryu, is the only place on earth where one can find this plant. And now, the plant has become an endangered species. The specimens have been so carefully preserved over the years, thanks to the efforts of so many..." I found it difficult to confess that we have allowed the living plant itself to reach the brink of extinction.
The "Kakko-so Preservation Society" (Yoichi Asakura, President) is proceeding with a new project. It is their plan to donate a new specimen to the Rijksherbarium. As the season for blossoming approaches on Mt. Narukami, its native home, they hope to support international research by contributing this second specimen. Fortunately, the new archival facilities in Leiden still have room to accommodate new contributions.
Recently, there has been considerable research involving DNA analysis. If two strands are available, they can be studied in comparison. This new specimen, added to the first, may prove to be a most valuable tool for future comparative research studies. It goes without saying that at the same time, we must not allow this plant to become extinct.
von Siebold Garden
It was the end of March, just before Easter, when I paid a visit to Leiden, the Netherlands. Unrestrained by the terrain, a bitter wind blew from the North Sea. Upon entering the Tropical Greenhouses in the Hortus Botanicus, whose connection with von Siebold remains unbroken, my glasses instantaneously fogged over.
In one corner of the Hortus Botanicus there is a Japanese garden, planted in memory of von Siebold. Although the garden is not so very large, it is surrounded by a Bengali red tinted wall on which Japanese roof tiles have been set. In addition, there is a "karesansui" or dry run (a traditional Japanese landscape which includes the dry stone bed of a brook). The von Siebold Memorial Garden symbolizes the inexhaustible friendship between the Dutch and Japanese people.
In the back of the arbor, there stands a bust of von Siebold. Probably it is a likeness of him around the time when he first came to Japan. His expression is both youthful and spirited. Following his line of vision, I found a Somei Yoshino cherry tree (an early blooming variety) in full bloom, its blossoms trembling in the late winter wind. There in a foreign country, finding a cherry tree in full bloom in a garden landscaped in Japanese fashion, gives one pause... a surreal experience. As I considered von Siebold's career in Japan, it occurred to me that the plant specimens he collected and the botanical paintings drawn by Japanese artists and placed into his hands rest here, remnants of his unfulfilled dream.
A stately zelkova tree stands in the garden. It is said that von Siebold brought the tree from Japan in 1830 and now the passage of the years is engraved in the rings of the tree. Altogether there are some fourteen varieties of plants in the garden which were brought over by von Siebold. Not only was he involved in academic research, but he also actively pursued garden landscaping and decorating European gardens with Japanese plants. von Siebold was also involved in the afforestation of mountain areas.
It is further said that von Siebold's fame grew when it became known that he had brought a "Kanoko lily" (Linium speciosum Thuub.) back alive from Japan. His beautiful large-scale publication, Flora Japonica, was written in French rather than Latin in order to allow large numbers of people to read it. In it plants are categorized as medicinal, edible, useful for industrial arts, useful for construction, useful for fuel, etc.
von Siebold was greatly interested in Ezo (now Hokkaido) and the Ainu and found the information he learned there practical in Europe. In 1859, after a 30 year absence, von Siebold returned to Japan, his fervor unabated. He called upon a Japanese poet known as "Mori no Eiyu" (hero of the forests) to gather information about cedars. As a result of encroaching civilization, mountainous areas of Southern Europe had been deforested. It is known that he searched for means by which these areas could be replanted to regenerate the forests.
In the springtime, the botanical garden's colors are as yet pale, and other than the plants in the Tropical Greenhouses, the number of flowers which I can recall seeing there are few indeed. Among these flowers, however, the primulas stand out in my mind. Pink, yellow and white blossoms, some originating from the foothills of the Himalayas - indeed it is the primulas which make the first impression of the arrival of spring.
At any rate, our own "kakko-so's" scientific nomenclature, "Primula kisoana" originates from the specimen label with the word "kizo" written by von Siebold. Perhaps it is just as well that this is the name which has prevailed instead of the tentative name assigned by von Siebold, "Primula hirsuta." While this name accurately describes the plant's hairy leaves and stems, one cannot help but feel sorry that such a lovely flowering plant would be assigned such an unattractive sounding name.
|CONCLUSION: NEW PRIMULA KISOANA MIQUEL SPECIMENS FOR LEIDEN...
I departed for the Netherlands, carrying with me specimens of the kakko-so (Primula kisoana miquel), a flowering plant whose sole habitat on this earth is on Narukami Mountain (elev. : 979.9 m) which rises onthe north side of the city of Kiryu. Living in a city enclosed in a rich ecosystem, it is our desire to preserve for posterity and share with the rest of the world this beautiful symbol.
During the Edo Period, Philipp Franz von Siebold transported a specimen of the kakko-so to the Netherlands which is now carefully preserved in the Rijksherbarium at the University of Leiden. I examined and confirmed the museum specimen to be the same as the Kiryu kakko-so in March, 1997. The kakko-so was recognized as a unique type and assigned its own scientific name. As such, the kakko-so specimen is of special scientific significance since it is a different type.
The research staff at the university welcomed the new kakko-so specimens, having been brought to them all the way from Narukami Mountain. These pressed flower plants were brought face to face with their ancestors of 170 years past. In addition, the researchers agreed to attempt to grow the seeds which had been presented to them. Should they successfully sprout, the seedlings would be planted in a Japanese-style section of the Hortus Botanicus known as the von Siebold Memorial Garden. People from all over the world will be able to enjoy seeing the kakko-so when they come to the gardens to enjoy the spring flowers. Planting this flower will form a new bridge of friendship between Japan and the Netherlands, Kiryu and Leiden.
In mid-November, the city had already taken on the appearance of winter and an arch of Christmas lights could be seen in the downtown area. Previously, on my first visit to see the kakko-so specimen in the Rijksherbarium, it was the end of March. It was just before Easter and one could still feel the chill of winter in the air.
In the morning, as I gazed out of my hotel window, a wall of fog appeared hung over the canaland the brick architecture along the old city streets glowed in the mist. My sense of being a stranger here intensified. However, on this occasion, I had most important traveling companions... the new kakko-so specimens and seeds.
The purpose of my voyage was to deliver these specimens and seeds into the hands of the Leiden University Rijksherbarium and Hortus Botanicus. 170 years ago, Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) had brought a kakko-so specimen from Japan and it was preserved among the some 4 million other specimens in this most impressive collection. The descendants of this kakko-so specimen live solely in the unique ecosystem on Narukami Mountain and have been identified as an endangered species.
In the process of lending a hand in the cause of the kakko-so there are several critical steps. One important step is to make sure that the plant's existence is recognized scientifically and recorded accordingly.
Over the course of many years, the Kakko-so Preservation Society (Yoichi Asakura, President) has been carefully investigating the ecosystem in which the plant lives, making new specimen samples and recording its life cycle in photographs.
Toward the end of April, 1997, during the plant's blooming period, Mr. Asakura and another Society member, Ms. Itoe Arai, carefully gathered samples and made a new series of pressed flower specimens.
When the offer of new specimens was first made to the Rijksherbarium, the Director, Dr. Peter Baas, was most delighted and requested seeds along with the specimens. The staff at the Hortus Botanicus are already growing a collection of primulas (to which the kakko-so is related) in order to preserve them. Dr. Baas was eager to add the kakko-so to this collection in the garden.
Indeed, in early spring, primulas are among the first flowers to add color to the dull garden and are a delight to behold. From the Himalayan Mountain range to Siberia, on to the Middle East, and extending even to the European Alps and down to the Mediterranean Sea coast, the bright pink, yellow and white varieties of primulas bloom impressively each spring.
Changes in the earth's natural environment resulting from pollution, etc. have brought many species to the brink of extinction. Today, the destruction of the earth's environment is proceeding on a global scale, leading to fears of the imminent danger of extinction of many wild plants. As a result of these fears, botanical gardens everywhere are attempting to serve as a means of preserving endangered species. Many such facilities have become objects of focus as a result. One case in point in Japan is the Tokyo University Koishikawa Botanical Gardens where efforts are being made to preserve the endangered Ogasawara Islands' "Ogasawara Azalea" and the Muninno Peony, etc. They are investigating these endangered species, their special developmental characteristics and are attempting repopulation by sprouting seeds and planting them in their native environment. It is not sufficient to have these plants growing only in botanical gardens. They must be preserved as well in their native habitat.
The case is similar for the kakko-so. A local volunteer preservation society is carrying out the above mentioned activities in the hope of preserving the flowering plant. However, reforestation programs and digging the plants up by the roots for sale are factors working against preservation, bringing ever closer the plant's extinction. In particular, the problematic construction of the Umeda-Odaira Forestry Road will no doubt have a drastic effect not only on the kakko-so itself, but on the entire Narukami Mountain ecosystem.
As for preserving endangered species in botanical gardens, it is insufficient to grow such plants in just one location. Rather, it is necessary to grow them in two or more sites.
Given the Rijksherbarium's 400 year history and their custodianship of the von Siebold collection, providing them with kakko-so seeds to grow is a most meaningful effort to say the least.
It is as if von Siebold somehow managed to carry back the whole of Japan with him when he crossed the seas on his return voyage to Europe in 1820. His collection is a virtual time capsule of the Edo Period, a collection of precious items no longer to be found in Japan. These items are now held in repository at the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University, the very first institution of higher learning in Europe to offer courses of study on Japan. This collection became the foundation of the Leiden Ethnological Museum. The city of Nagasaki has chosen the year 2000 for the historical restoration of Dejima Island, basing their plan on evidence and materials held at the Ethnological Museum in Leiden.
Unlike von Siebold, I have journeyed by air, rather than by sea, to bring together new kakko-so specimens with their 170 year old ancestor in the von Siebold collection in the Netherlands. Having actually arrived in Leiden, I managed to impress not only the Rijksherbarium Director, Dr. Baas, with this story, but many of his staff as well. I was greeted by Professor Kalkman, the former director, the Collection Manager of the Phanerograms (flowering plants), Ms. Kofman, and from the Library, Mr. Lut. The Curator of the Living Collection in the Hortus Botanicus where the kakko-so seeds will be planted, Ms. Carla Teune, was also present along with reporters and photographers from the local newspaper. On the following day, the story appeared in the paper accompanied by a color photograph.
The new kakko-so specimens were greeted with cries of "Beautiful!" and "Wonderful!". The 16 specimens from plants growing in the wild were laid out one by one. Each specimen revealed different aspects of the flower color, size and how the flowers are attached to the stems. Not only two-dimensionally, but through the photographs taken by the Preservation Society President, Mr. Asakura, the plant's special characteristics were revealed.
The von Siebold specimen had been brought for comparison to the room where I was welcomed. The blossoms of the older specimen were somewhat smaller and the color of the flowers had faded with age.
The new specimens were immediately made ready for preservation by the specimen specialist and were laid out one by one on the standard size paper used by the museum (50 X 30 cm) and carefully attached. The name of the collector, the date and native habitat of the flower were also recorded and finally, the collection was enclosed in a paper cover for safe keeping in the museum. Both old and new kakko-so specimens, having traversed the boundaries of space and time, were united and preserved for posterity.
On the following day, having accomplished my historical mission, I went to visit the Hortus Botanicus. The sky had undergone a sunny transformation, leaving only the memory of the previous day's fog. The dew on the leaves which covered the ground sparkled like beads of light. It was as if I could hear the refrain, "Such is the performance of life..." echoing in nature around me.
The von Siebold Memorial Garden is surrounded by a Bengali red wall, topped with a ceramic tile roof. The dry Japanese garden was covered with fallen leaves from the Zelkova tree brought over by von Siebold in 1830. The setting evoked a strong sense of nostalgia in me. Next spring, or perhaps the spring after next, when the kakko-so's lovely blossoms appear, I wondered what emotions the sight may evoke then...
Although the Rijksherbarium of the University of Leiden has moved to the new Science Zone, the gardens themselves remain in the old city limits at Rapenburg, on the grounds of a former monastery. The gardens spread out behind the main building. Not only university students, but over 90,000 persons from around the world visit the gardens each year, among them some 10,000 Japanese. Not only does the garden serve to introduce Japan to those in Europe, but it also serves to recall the contributions of von Siebold who introduced much of Western science to the Japanese.
In the back of the arbor, one cannot fail to notice the bust of von Siebold around which are planted the hydrangeas which he named after the Japanese woman he loved, Otaki. There is also a Japanese maple tree, whose red autumn leaves formed a carpet around the bust.
There is a grouping of primulas in another area of the garden, their dark green leaves surviving the winter. The kakko-so, however, will not be planted with these other primula. According to the Director, Dr. Baas, it will be planted in the von Siebold Memorial Garden, for which I felt truly delighted. The staff at the museum is, of course, concerned with protecting endangered species. When I informed them of the plan to construct a road through the plant's native habitat, they found it incomprehensible. Unmistakenably, it is our task to ensure the preservation of the flower's environment so that its sole existence is not limited to the von Siebold Memorial Garden.
The year 2000 commemorates the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Liefde, the Dutch ship which drifted ashore in Bungo Province, Japan, uniting the history of the Netherlands and Japan. In honor of this occasion, many events and exhibitions are currently being planned. Retracing this unique path in history to Dejima Island, Nagasaki, and the year 1820, this time capsule of a collection created by von Siebold will play a significant role in the recreation of the era.
Clip-clop, clip-clop... I turned my eyes in the direction from which this unusual sound emanated - beyond the garden wall and the canal flowing along the street. I saw the characteristic red brick buildings of the city and as a gentleman dressed in black passed by on horseback, I respectfully recalled that von Siebold had lived here... it was as if I had traveled back to the time when he was writing Flora Japonica. Somewhere in the distance, a field of kakko-so in bloom spread out before me as in a dream.
Somei Yoshino Cherry Tree in the von Siebold Garden