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Snippets of Odawara

I never really cared for Australian hydrangeas. To be entirely honest, I’d never really given them a second thought. In my mind, they were always background flowers; flowers that belonged on the desks of bougie fashion editors or else in the hallways of well-dressed grandparents, but not something to really pay attention to.

Surprisingly, now, they might well be my favourite flower. Every time I see hydrangeas–ajisai (アジサイ ) in Japanese–I get reminded of the day I went to Odawara.

The day I went, the ground was still damp from rain. The sky was grey and mottled, and sat in the impasse between black and white that I so strongly associated with the suffocating humidity of the August before. The air was cool, though, unlike in the later summer months, and the sleepy cicadas chirped in their funny little orchestra the entire way between the Romance car platform and the castle where I had been commissioned to take pictures.

I only got to spend a couple of hours here.  It was just a quick pit-stop on my long itinerary for a work/writing trip. Because of this, I was mindful to be quick. But the second I came into the castle grounds, I was struck by the beauty of what I saw. At the base of the castle, all the way around the walls forming a benevolent moat, was thick dark-green foliage. In that foliage, was hundreds and hundreds of hydrangeas. 

I had expected white walls and grey stone: not a rainbow stippled, sponged and sprinkled in fairy-tale-eque majesty all over the garden. Instead of going straight to the castle as I had planned, I walked slowly around the grounds. I was travelling alone and so I had no one to share it with. In silence, I appreciated all of it. I counted the puffs of colour–of sky blue, lilac, fuchsia, blue bell, powdered blush–and weaved through the retirees with their big cameras and the groups of friends posing before the foliage. I stopped to take pictures, nodded and bowed when I anciently bobbed into the photographs of others, and spent a snippet of glorious time soaking in the bucolic beauty of it all.

An hour or so after that, I was leaving the castle. An hour after that, I was on a train to somewhere else, still holding onto that fleeting snippet of magic that had bloomed from nothing, and had taken me by such astounding surprise, that it’s very well rewritten something I’ve always found ordinary and dull, into being something now find truly enchanting.

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