Kyoto on May 1st–One Hundred Shades of New Green.
Wasn’t it winter a few days ago? All of a sudden, it is spring here and a hundred different shades of green are growing on the hills of Kyoto. The city is surrounded on three sides with almost completely undeveloped hills. And the shades of green are varied and rich. In Japanese, spring green is called shinryoku–new green.
The shades of the colors most commonly chosen for graphics, art, crafts and clothing are generally different here. I recently compared a western Pantone color chart and a Japanese Toyo color chart with a friend. We were both amazed that the colors were very different from each other. The Toyo colors were subtler, more subdued, yet somehow richer, more natural looking. I sometimes see plantings of Dutch tulips in gardens. Though bright European reds and yellows may be beautiful, they somehow look artificial. Tulip colors shout while Toyo colors whisper.
A textile dyer once told me that any naturally dyed fabric can be combined together without any other naturally dyed fabric without clashing. Chemically dyed clothes and accessories will often clash with others when combined in the same outfit. Clothes dyed with plants, however, will always look good no matter how they are combined.
After four months of winter green and brown, the city of Kyoto is now being refreshed and revitalized with shinryoku. Though many tourists come here in early April to see pink blossoms bursting throughout the city, the public gardens and strolling paths are luxuriously empty of people during shinryoku season. And though all except double flower cherries are gone, pink, purple and white azaleas, pink and white dogwood, blue and white wisteria and golden yellow kerria are out now.
Maybe I’m not the best person to ask the ideal time of year to travel to Japan. No matter what time of year it may be, I always answer, “Just now is the best time.”