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.

9 Responses to “A book from the Japanese Camellia Society ‘The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas’”


  • Desearia adquirir los dos volumenes del libro ” Nomenclature of japanese camellias and sasanquas”

  • I am trying to find pictures of these Camellia flowers: K. Sawada; George Patton; Seiboldi; Opelousas Pink; & Laural Leaf Camellias.
    If you can be of help, I would appreciate it.
    Thank You,
    Bob Maloney

  • Bob: Unfortunately I do not have these particular pictures. Sorry

  • Dear Yuri

    I am interested in buying a copy of The Nomenclature of Japanese Camellias and Sasanquas.

    Would you know where I could buy a copy?

    Or do you have the email for the Japanese Camellia Society?

    Is your friend Mr Shen the same Mr Shen that published the book on Azaleas, if so I supplied some of the pictures.

    Kind regards. Jim inskip. UK.

    Yuri Panchul reply on July 7th, 2008 4:16 pm:

    Hello Jim. I got my book from Patricia Short from the International Camellia Society. You can send me an e-mail to yuri@panchul.com and I will send you back her e-mail address.

    Yuri Panchul reply on July 7th, 2008 6:26 pm:

    Jim: Yes, and my friend Mr Shen did write a book about Azaleas.

  • Insightful. I like this. Will try to see whether the information provided herein is useful or not by the specific outcome after putting into use in real world practice. Thanks.

  • Very insightful.

    I love the thoughtfullness of this book.

  • Such a fascinating part of Japanese tradition.

    Looks like a really nice book. Thanks

  • Camellias can be seen in all their glory at Descanso Gardens
    and The Huntington Library Botanical Gardens.
    Descano is a virtual camellia and oak forest and was once
    the home of E. Manchester Boddy, publisher of the Los Angeles News.
    Why not bring the beauty of camellias to your home landscape
    where you can enjoy them every day.

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    Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

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