Brief History of The Japan Iris Society
Masahiro Shiino
  Chairman of the Board of Directors, The Japan Iris Society

   On Oct. 28th 2001,we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the foundation of The Japan Iris Society at the Matumotoro restaurant in Hibiya park of Tokyo,where the first big exhibits of Japanese  Iris Hanashobu were held under the sponser of the Society in 1930 and charmed many Tokyo citizens with the beauty and elegance of flowers.

Taking this opportunity, I wish to remind the fact that Dr George M Reed,American Iris Society came to Japan in 1930 to investigate native sites and public gardens of various Japanese iris,especially Hanashobu , and his visit of that time spurred the movement for Japanese Hanashobu growers to get together and organize the society.
Dr Reed introduced leading Hanashobu gardens all over Japan and fully explained characters of three types as Edo,Higo and Ise , and traditional displaying styles in the issue of American Iris Society #40 July 1931. It was the     first report on Hanashobu done in English and marked a historical contributions to research groups of Hanashobu in the world.  Ending his report, he stated that Hanashobu is the greatest gift from Japan and hundreds of species had been hybridized for many years and most of them could be suitably grown in American gardens.

   Japanese traditional gardening plants can be categorized into several groups. 
Since the ancient ages, Japan has been closely connected to China,and therefore many plants were transferred from there; the groups already hybridized in China,ie,JapaneseFloweringApricot,Peach,Chrysanthemum,TreePeony,Chinese Peony; the groups hybridized not in China but in Japan,ie,Morning Glory;the groups of Chinese and Japanese origin hybridized mutually,ie,Flowering Quince,Dianthus. Further,the groups hybridized only from Japanese native plants,ie,Hanashobu,PrimulaSieboldi,HepaticaJaponica,ie.Therefore,Hanashobu is a pure Japanese production.

   In the middle of Edo dynasty,about 300 years ago,gardeners gathered a variety of native Iris (Iris ensata)from northern part of Japan,and repeated hybridization and made hundreds of new species. They plantd those species in wide field near city and town attracting people coming on picnic with the beautiful flowers in bloom.  It is said that Hanashobu field is the forerunner of the public garden in Japan.

   Up to the present days,the Society has experienced good times and bad times in their effort to preserve the heritage and to pass it on to the descendents. However,I am concerned a little about the future of Hanashobu in Japan. The globalization in the field of gardening is going on. Imported plants,such as, Orchid,Begonia and Helleborus are booming and western gardening style is popular among Japanese people. On the contrary,traditional plants are declining to the status of limited supporting players.  Regrettably,Hanashobu is in the same situation.

   The good sign is that the number of public Hanashobu gardens are increasing every year in Japan and people can easily visit and see flowers in the season. Many local governments in the country opened Hanashobu gardens to utilize the vacant fields suspended from rice productioin. These gardens attract many visitors as sight- seeing spots and offer temporary jobs to local farmers. There are probably more than 200 Hanashoubu gardens all over Japan. Such reflects a tendency that Hanashobu is now being considered as the plant for people not to grow ,but to see.

   I am very glad that The American Iris Society is actively recommending Hanashobu to gardeners and giving advice to grow it beautifully. To response to such admiring effort,our Society must restore the attention of  Japanese gardeners back to Hanashobu and lead them to grow by themselves and transfer their accumulated knowhow to foreign countries.

   This is the first trial of English pages inserted in our yearly issue. Mr Hirosi Shimizu wrote 5 essays,from which I believe readers can get up-to-date knowledge of Hanashobu. He is a leading hybridizer now in Japan. If there are any questions,please contact him .

(address: 3-6-21 Aihara Sagamiharashi Japan 229-1101)


Above: Thefirst Bulletin 'Hanashobu' by The Japan Iris Society
     It was published in 1931 and continued to the prezent.