Yoshimizu Garden: A Festival For Frogs
Yoshimizu Garden (all photos by Harriet Swan)
by Harriet Swann
On the third and fourth of June each year, Akiota Town (where I live) holds a Frog Festival in Kake. A couple of weeks before I’d heard about this event, the rice fields next to where I lived had been invaded by an army of frogs, so many and so loud that my family could hear them on Skype! The town logo is also a frog, so it seemed to make sense that – of course – there would also be a Frog Festival.
About a five minute walk from the town centre is Yoshimizu Garden, which was first built as a mountain getaway in 1781. A shrine was added in 1783, and it was remodelled again in 1803. The garden was then declared a wildlife reserve in 1953 because it is a natural habitat for the Moria Tree Frog. I found out that the Frog Festival is actually held in honor of this special type of frog.
Apparently, at night, four males gather around one female on a tree branch over the pond and together they form a bubble-like egg sac, which contains about three hundred eggs. After a week or so, the eggs begin to drop off the branches into the pond. Two months later the baby frogs crawl out and into the trees.
Moria tree frogs laying eggs
The garden is only open to the public for the first two weekends in June, and the second weekend in November. So, in June we went hunting for the little green frogs. My spotting skills were pretty rubbish, and it took a while to find any frogs, but a helpful guide pointed some out to me with his stick. They were beautiful: bright green and perfectly disguised in their surroundings. The garden itself is lush and beautiful, with a tea house that sits and looks out over the pond. The trees stretch up and up, shadowing the pond. It’s tranquil and serene. It must have been a perfect mountain getaway in the 1800s, and remains one even now.
In addition to the Yoshimizu Garden opening up, there are also many other festival events. There is a male “frog band,” which performs a range of songs (including AKB48) while dressed as frogs. Many of my students danced and sung. Some famous l0cal kagura groups performed. There were also many stalls selling delicious food and interesting souvenirs.
The live “frog band” at the Frog Festival
I would definitely recommend people visit the garden in November to see the autumn foliage, or next year to try spot some tree frogs for yourself!