in memory of dead tsubaki
There’s nothing quite so terrible as coming back home after a month-long trip only to find that one of your favorite trees of all time has been totally eradicated for no seemingly good reason at all. This particular camellia tree (椿 — tsubaki in Japanese) was one of several planted along the sidewalks that border the road between my house and the university where I teach. The area where the tree was planted is pretty nondescript — there’s a convenience store, some anonymous apartment buildings, tons of powerlines, a busy roadway, and a side entrance to the university. The camellia trees that were planted here were just about the only redemptive moments of beauty along this particular strip of road. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for over four years and I’ve always looked forward to those times of the year that the camellias come into bloom. This particular tree especially, located at the top of the stairway that leads out of the university, would flower so profusely that in relation to it’s dull concrete surroundings it would almost resemble a torch when the sun would shine in from behind it.
Walking over to the Family Mart and seeing the bare strips of earth where the camellia trees had been (now lined with orange cones and impromptu fencing), I thought immediately of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring where Samwise looks into the Mirror of Galadriel only to see the decimation of the home he’d left behind:
`Hi!’ cried Sam in an outraged voice. ‘There’s that Ted Sandyman a-cutting down trees as he shouldn’t. They didn’t ought to be felled: it’s that avenue beyond the Mill that shades the road to Bywater. I wish I could get at Ted, and I’d fell him!’
But now Sam noticed that the Old Mill had vanished, and a large red-brick building was being put up where it had stood. Lots of folk were busily at work. There was a tall red chimney nearby. Black smoke seemed to cloud the surface of the Mirror.
‘There’s some devilry at work in the Shire,’ he said. ‘Elrond knew what he was about when he wanted to send Mr. Merry back.’ Then suddenly Sam gave a cry and sprang away. ‘I can’t stay here,’ he said wildly. `I must go home. They’ve dug up Bagshot Row, and there’s the poor old gaffer going down the Hill with his bits of things on a barrow. I must go home! ‘
Apparently camelias were considered signs of ill omen by certain samurai because the bright red camellia flowers that fell from the trees and littered the ground reminded them of decapitated heads. Too bad it was the trees themselves that ended up beheaded this time.
Update — September 11, 2009: Apparently the camellia trees were cut down because of some sort of insect infestation that’s sweeping Osaka (all of the camellias on campus got cut down too). I’m not really an expert on insect infestation, but it seems to me that perhaps slightly less drastic measures might have been taken.
Filed under: daily life, Japan, Kansai, nature, Osaka, personal | 2 Comments
Tags: bad urban planning, camellia, camellia tree, decapitation, decimation of the beautiful, flowers, in memorium, Mirror of Galadriel, samurai bad-luck charms, superstition, 椿