A book from the Japanese Camellia Society ‘The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas’


'The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas'. The Japanese Camellia Society.

“The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas” ( 日本ツバキ・サザンカ名鑑 , Nippon Tsubaki ・ Sasanqua Meikan) is another “must have” book for any serious sasanqua lover. This book was published in 1999 by the Japanese Camellia Society ( 日本ツバキ協会編 , Nippon Tsubaki Kyoukai Hen) and Seibundo Shinkosha Co. Ltd. ( 誠文堂 新光社 ). This book is a work of more than 50 people who collected high-quality photo pictures and information on more than 2200 japonica and 200 sasanqua cultivars.

The book consists of two volumes – a volume in Japanese with pictures and a volume with English translation, created under the supervision of Thomas J. Savige. Note that in the book “The Japanese Camellia Society” is referred as “The Japan Camellia Society”.

The book has a short preface (4 pages), telling the history of the Japanese Camellia Society and the history of the book publication.

The Japanese Camellia Society was formed after the WWII, shortly after the formation of the International Camellia Society in 1953. It was the time of worldwide surge of interest in camellia growing and hybridizing.

The first nomenclature publication “Japanese Camellias, a Collection of 1000 varieties” ( 日本の椿、千品種 , Nippon no tsubaki, Senhin-shu) was published in 1980, but it included only Camellia japonica ( 椿, tsubaki ) and had no infomation about sasanqua ( 山茶花 , sazanka).

After the International Camellia Society published a monumental International Camellia Register in 1993 with 22,000 cultivars, it became obvious that the Japanese nomenclature publication has to be updated. However, according to the Japanese Camellia Society, during the economic boom time, no Japanese publisher wanted to publish a camellia book, because of its low profitability – there were plenty of more profitable books around. So Japanese camellia lovers had to wait until the economy goes down!

After the preface, the book presents information about 2400 cultivars. Each cultivar’s information has a photo picture and a 100-Kanji description. Some cultivars have no photo pictures – they are described in the appendix. The description is brief and very informative – it describes the cultivar’s area of origin, color, shape, habit, name of the originator and first mention in the literature. I wish similar American publications (like Southern California Camellia Society) use the same style.

Finally, after more than 300 pages of cultivars, the book has a chapter about the camellia history (3 pages), an afterword (1 page), a translator’s note (1 page) and an index. I personally like this style because it is down to the point.

The chapter about camellia history is written by the President of the Japanese Camellia Society Dr. Kaoru Hagiya ( 薫屋薫 ). It contains an interesting thought about why Japanese people prefer single flowers while Westerners prefer double formal flowers: ”The fundamental difference is in that the Westerners treat flowers as kinds of decorations, while Japanese take flowers as the symbols of nature”.

The afterword is written by Shuho Kirino ( 桐野秋豊 ), a member of the editorial committee.

There is a translator’s note from Shigeo Matsumoto ( 松本重雄 ) who is asking forgiveness for his translation errors. I did find some ambiguities – for example, about the origin of ‘Shôwa-no-sakae’. However I personally like his style of translation because it has a feeling of the Japanese character. If the translator would be non-Japanese, the text would be less authentic.

Shigeo Matsumoto was using help from Thomas J. Savige from Australia who suggested to use Hepburn system in the translation according to the International Nomenclature Code. This is very important. Different books use different forms of English transliteration of Japanese names. For example ‘Shôwa-no-sakae’ is written as ‘Showa No Sakae’, or ‘Shishigashira’ is written as ‘Shishi Gashira’ or ‘Shishi Gashira’. It is important to understand that pronouncing “o” instead of “ô” may change the meaning of the word. However we are still using non-accented “o” on our www.sazanka.org web site because of English search engines. But the bottom line – “The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas” became for me the main reference for the proper name, pronunciation and the history of Japanese sasanqua cultivars.

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