In my Oct. 16 column in The Japan Times, I wrote about komomaki, the straw mats you often see wrapped around the trunk of pine trees in formal Japanese gardens. As I explained in my article, this was originally a form of pest control but is also used to create a winter feel in a garden. Komomaki are applied in late October or early November and left on until March.
Since virtually every traditional garden in Japan has pine trees, you’d think you could just head to the nearest garden to see komomaki. But now that it’s known that komomaki also trap beneficial insects, they’re a little harder to find.
All of the nine traditional gardens in Tokyo managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association apply komomaki in the winter. I’ve provided a full list of those gardens in my previous post, but among them the best would be Kyū Shiba Rikyū Gardens 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 near JR Hamamatsu Station and and Rikugien Gardens 六義園 in Bunkyo-ku because they have a lot of pines in relatively small areas. Slightly farther afield, Tonogayato Gardens 殿ヶ谷戸庭園 in Kokubunji, on the western edge of Tokyo, offers some very attractive views.
Other good gardens for komomaki-spotting include Korakuen 後楽園 in Okayama Prefecture, which is one of the Nihon Sanmei-en 日本三名園 (three famous gardens of Japan). In Hiroshima Prefecture, 392 pine trees in Shukkeien 縮景園 will get their komomaki in an event on Tuesday Oct. 23.
Know of other good places to see komomaki? Comment below or drop me a line through the contact form on this blog and I’ll add your information to this post.
Many thanks to the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association for photos and assistance on both my column and this post. Thank you also to blogger Rurousha for allowing me to use some of her photos, and for her pioneering work on komomaki which helped me get started on my own research.