Life moves out of a red flare of dreams into a common light of common hours, until old age brings the red flare again.
As we approach the festive holidays that are wholly sprayed with greens and reds, we accumulate mixed year-end sentiments grown from varied experiences within quarantined walls. What a year it has been. A slow but burning year that history will forever remember; a passive year for children who had less room to play; a lonely year for the elderly who had to be screened away from their families; and a chaotic year for disobedient and freedom-crying citizens, for race-plagued riots, political conflicts and persistent natural disasters.
However, we still have time to close this mind-boggling year with fire in our hearts, as red poinsettia does above a fireplace, by the bathtub window, or outside your front door to welcome those you may have not done so while the epidemic imprisoned us to self-contemplation.
During the weeks of October, bright, round, red bushes bloom around several parks across Japan. Kochia, or summer cypress is also grown as an ornamental plant and serves as a useful crop for livestock, spread over landscapes with its foliage transcending from green around the beginning of July to the end of September, greenish-red in early October, scarlet red in mid-October, to golden glow in late October. The fire bush is also called "hokigusa", in Japanese, which translates to "broom plant," as the stems were dried and made into brooms during the olden days.
At the Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture, an enormous flower park stretching about 1.9 hectares, more than 30,000 Kochia or burning bushes sprinkle on the Miharashi meadows atop a hill, where the slopes give you breathtaking views left and right. Before entering the meadows, you may be distressed by the long line of visitors, but the ascend to the red fields is absolutely worth it. The fluffy cotton ball-like shrubs file in rows up and down the slopes like rolling marbles. As you arrive at the peak of the hill, you can catch a spectacular glimpse of the seaside serving as a background against the colorful bed of Kochia and cosmos flowers.
During this period of the Coronavirus pandemic, one would imagine an absence of visitors to this park. On the contrary, perhaps, after more than nine months of unsettling sacrifice to stay indoors and refrain from travel and close personal interaction, the Japanese could no longer hold their reigns and have resorted to a revival of spirit, surrounding themselves, hence, once again, with abundant nature and beauty. The blanket of Kochia in gradating hues of green, red, and brown is an absolute charm that seems to mirror the prevalent transition from anxiety to relief that many have been grappling with for almost a year.
Aside from the Hitachi Seaside Park, the astonishing red Kochia blooms can also be enjoyed at Hakodateyama Kokia Park close to Lake Biwa in the Kansai area, with over 2,000 bushes. The Hirugano Picnic Garden in Gujo city, Gifu prefecture, known for its skiing resort Hirugano Kogen, also boasts of 10,000 shrubs. Finally, for those relentlessly captivated by the panorama of Mt. Fuji, the Oishi Park at the Kawaguchi Lake reveals an enchanting landscape of about 2,600 bushes right below the iconic volcano. Every year the Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival is held in November, and the Kochia shrubs are lit up from sunset to 10 p.m. There is also a Flower Road that parades rows of autumn flowers, accompanied by local specialty food and a jazz festival.
It has been said that people have flocked parks and gardens twofold since the strike of the epidemic, and this rediscovery of nature’s gift has ushered a deep source of inspiration and motivation to side with positive living.