Akasaki-machi, Wajima City; Ôtani-machi, Suzu City; Ikari, Noto Town
Prefecturally designated natural monuments: Noto Kirishima azalea of Ôtani (Akasaki-machi, Wajima City, April 2006) Noto Kirishima azalea of Akasaki (April 2006) Noto Kirishima azalea of Ikari (Ikari, Noto Town April 2008)
The largest concentration of Kirishima azalea in Japan is on the Noto Peninsula, where there are more than 500 shrubs that are over 100 years old. “Noto Kirishima azalea of Akasaki” on the premises of the Kosaka residence in Akasaki, Wajima City, “Noto Kirishima azalea of Ôtani” on the grounds of the Ikegami residence in Nishiyachi, Ôtani-machi, Suzu City and “Noto Kirishima azalea of Ikari” on the premises of the Sakai residence in Ikari, Noto Town are prefecturally designated as natural monuments of Ishikawa. Noto Kirishima azalea is a variety of Kirishima azalea, which is said to be a hybrid of Kyushu azalea and torch azalea, wild species that belong to the genus Rhododendron of the Ericaceae family. Cultivating azaleas became popular across the country back in the Edo Period, when Kirishima azalea was introduced to Noto from southern Kyushu and mutated as it adapted to the harsh climate of Noto. As a result, Noto Kirishima azalea has its own flower size and form that are different from those of Kirishima azalea.
Noto Kirishima azaleas grown in Kaminaka, Koedo, Katsuradani and Ôkakuma, Anamizu Town, are called “Noto Gazan Kirishima”. This name comes from a legend according to which it was planted along a mountain path called “Gazan-do” by Gazan, the second chief priest of Soji-ji Temple, when he made daily visits to Yoko-ji Temple. Subsequently, the local residents looked after the plants and increased their numbers.
Noto Kirishima azelea, long cherished by the people of Noto, grows very slowly. There are many on the grounds of private residences, which bear deep red or purple flowers in early to mid May. In northern Noto, there is still a tradition of giving a gift of Kirishima azalea to a bride when she marries, to bring her happiness. In 2004, amateurs of the plant formed a liaison council, and today “NPO Noto Kirishima-tsutsuji-no-sato” is engaged in protection, conservation, research, and information dissemination.