This is an after-hours photograph from a couple evenings ago in Nitobe Memorial Garden. The Japanese irises (kakitsubata) have only recently started blooming, so visitors in the next week or two should be able to enjoy the display.
The zigzag bridge through the iris beds is a yatsuhashi-style bridge. Literally, yatsuhashi means “eight bridges”, but the term is used for any bridge-type with offset portions. This traditional bridge-type is inspired from The Tales of Ise.
Thematically, The Tales of Ise embodies the courtly miyabi aesthetic, prevalent among the surviving works produced by and for the culture elite of the Heian period, such as the more well-known The Tale of Genji. The poems themselves explore nature, the court society, culture, and love and relationships. A highlight can be shown from the interlude in section 9, as the central character rests beside the yatsuhashi or eight bridges in the famous iris marshes of Mikawa province. The poem he composes combines these themes: the sense of loss at leaving the capital, viewed as the only place of society and culture; longing for lost loves; and the beauty of the natural environment.
から衣 きつゝなれにし つましあれば はるばるきぬる たびをしぞ思
Karagoromo / kitsutsu narenishi / tsuma shi areba / harubaru kinuru / tabi o shi zo omou
I have a beloved wife / familiar as the skirt / of a well-worn robe / and so this distant journeying / fills my heart with grief
The last line is one translation (by Helen McCullough); another translation by John T. Carpenter can be found on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s site: Irises at Yatsuhashi (Eight Bridges). Note the first letter of each line in Carpenter’s translation; the original has the same wordplay, but in Japanese.
For more BPotD photographs from this garden, you can click on the tag: Nitobe Memorial Garden.