Special exhibition 〜All about Roses〜

Special exhibition 〜All about Roses〜

9 October 2021-28 November 2021

Special Exhibition Hall 1 and 2, Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba


10:00-16:30 (last entry 16:00)

Adults ¥800 / High School & University Students ¥400

Free for children of junior high school age and younger, adults over 65 and persons with a disability booklet (with whom one personal assistant may also enter free of charge).

*Please note that the opening dates and duration of the exhibition may be subject to change due to the COVID-19 situation.



l.  Welcome!

Welcome to our special exhibition “All about Roses”!
Please enjoy the treasures within featuring the botany, history and charm of roses with the help of this text guide in English.

First, this is the “Tall Cup with the Patterns of Roses” produced by French artists Daum Frères in the period of Art Nouveau.

Daum Frères are as famous as Émile Gallé as French artists of glassworks. The rose painted on this cup looks like a wild rose, Rosa arvensis, native to France. The heart shape of white petals, the shape of the leaves, and the vigorous canes with red prickles, are the features of Rosa arvensis. This work encapsulates the Daum brothers’ skill of design which features the charms of roses, realistically as well as artistically.

This piece had been kept in the house of the Daum family for many years.  In 1982, the family sold their precious collection, and Kitazawa Museum of Art in Japan purchased this “Tall Cup with the Patterns of Roses”. It is a work which impresses on us the great sensitivity of Daum Frères who selected for their work, not a gorgeous garden rose, but a wild rose which decorates fields in France with its delicate flowers.

Daum Frères  
“Tall Cup with the Patterns of Roses”  
<Kitazawa Museum of Art> 


2.  Wild Roses in Japan

There are 16 wild roses native to Japan. From the south, Rosa bracteata on Ishigaki Island, to the north, Rosa rugosa in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan. In this exhibition case, we display four different species found in Chiba prefecture. Rosa multiflora is the wild rose most popular to us. We can find this rose everywhere in the prefecture. Sunny places with moist soil and riverbanks provide the best natural habitat for Rosa multiflora. In mid-May, it gives small white flowers with a sweet scent.

Towards the end of May, ca 10 days later than Rosa multiflora, Rosa onoei var. oligantha gives white flowers. We can see Rosa onoei var. oligantha on the hillsides of the southern parts of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba. The flowers of this rose look similar to those of Rosa multiflora. The feature to distinguish these two species is the number of leaflets. As for Rosa multiflora, the number of leaflets is seven to nine, whereas for Rosa onoei var. oligantha, it is five to seven.

Rosa luciae blooms in early June, 10 days later than Rosa onoei var. oligantha. Its natural habitats are mainly the seaside, however, it can grow anywhere, even inland, if it can enjoy enough sunshine. The number of its shiny, round leaflets is seven to nine.

Rosa rugosa is a beautiful wild rose which gives large purple flowers. It is a rose which likes the cold climates, so it is seen very rarely in Chiba prefecture. There are some records of this rose, which say that it drifted from some northern habitats, riding on ocean currents, and rooted along the coast of Chiba prefecture.

Wild Roses in Chiba Prefecture 
(Photo by Koichi Osaku)


3.  Carl Gottlob Rössig:  Die Rosen, nach der Natur Gezeichnet und Colorirt

This is a rare old book. The number of copies existing in the world today might not be over twenty, and this is the only copy found in Japan.

This book was published earlier than the famous “Les Roses” (1817-1824) by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. It was published in Leipzig, Germany in 1802-1820. Carl Gottlob Rössig was a professor at Leipzig University. Though he taught law and economics there, his interests also lay in plants. In his later years, he published this book “Die Rosen”. The text was written by Rössig himself in German and was translated into French. Rose pictures were drawn by several different painters.

Each volume gives five pictures, and twelve volumes were published in eighteen years. Unfortunately, Rössig passed away in 1806, and the last two volumes were published by C. F. Waitz, partly using Rössig’s original notes. Most of the books existing in the world today consist of just ten volumes, however, the book in our collection has eleven volumes altogether. Please see the pictures of 38 garden roses and 17 wild roses, in total 55, shown on a large monitor in this room.

This book was donated to our museum in 2013 by Honorary Professor Kei Mori of the Osaka University of Art along with other items of his large collection of rare old books on roses. There are other precious books of roses in the 19th century shown in the exhibition case next to the monitor.

Carl Gottlob Rössig 
“Die Rosen, nach der Natur Gezeichnet und Colorirt” 
No.11 Rosa Francfurtensis L. 
<Natural History Museum & Institute, Chiba> 


4.  History of Roses

Garden roses today are divided into two groups: Old Roses and Modern Roses. On this large panel, please see the history of roses -- from wild roses to the birth of modern roses.

In early days, roses were cultivated for medical use and for perfume. For those purposes, people selected from wild roses those giving large flowers and good fragrance, and planted them near their houses. This was the beginning of the cultivation of roses. We call those old roses of early days, i.e., Gallicas and Damasks etc., “Old Roses Category 1”.

Towards the end of the 19th century, there was a great change in the cultivated roses. China Roses came to Europe and added to the above-mentioned Old Roses several new features such as the continuous flowering habit, the red flower colour, different kinds of scent, and the pointed shape of petals. On this panel, old roses which took in such characters from China roses -- Noisettes, Teas, etc. -- are classed as “Old Roses Category 2”.

There are various opinions in different countries on the year of the birth of Modern Roses. Many Japanese rose lovers think that Modern Roses were born in the year 1867, when the first Hybrid Tea rose ‘La France’ was raised.

There are different trends in hybridizing roses today, and breeders and rose lovers are interested not only in the size and the colours of flowers but also in the strength of scent, hardiness, disease resistance, and heat tolerance of new roses. 

‘Slater’s Crimson China’, one of the first Chinese roses 
imported to Europe toward the end of the19th century
(Photo by Koichi Osaku) 


5.  Roses in the Edo Period

People in the Edo period loved gardening, and many different plants were grown in their gardens and in pots. Chrysanthemums and morning glories were very popular in those days. Though very few people referred to roses as garden plants in the Edo period, we can see roses in some paintings and Ukiyo-e prints in those days. Those pictures suggest to us that roses might have been planted in their gardens, and that some people in those days knew how to enjoy rose flowers, too.

Most of the roses in the art of Edo period were garden roses introduced from China. ‘Koushin Rose’, a group of China roses, had double flowers and their colours were purple, pink and white. People in the Edo period might have been surprised at their vitality, showing vivid flowers not only in spring, but also in autumn and even in winter, a feature seldom seen in other plants.

A rose which gave large flowers like Koushin Rose and used to be called Botan-Bara (Peony Rose) seems to be a type of Tea Rose. There are also pictures of other garden roses from China: Rosa roxburghii, Rosa banksiae, and Rosa x maikwai. 

Rosa laevigata was also a wild rose from China, where its hips were used for medicine. This Rose was also introduced early to Japan. Rosa laevigata var. rosea, a hybrid between Rosa laevigata and Rosa chinensis ‘Koushin Rose’, was also cultivated in those days.

On the other hand, wild roses from Japan, Rosa multiflora and Rosa luciae, were also painted in some pictures in the Edo period, though their number was not so large.

Hiroshige Utagawa II
‘Tokyo Meisho Sanjurokkasen; Tokyo, Nezu, Bara”
(= Roses in Nezu, Tokyo)
<Zôka’en Bunko>

6.  Roses in the Meiji Period

During the Meiji, Taisho, and early years of Showa periods, roses became very popular in Japan, since they were regarded as a symbol of advanced Western culture. At the beginning of the 20th century, the rose established its position as “the Queen of Flowers” in this country.

During the early years of the Meiji period (the 1870’s), many rose varieties were imported from abroad. The first record of rose importation was seen in the 1872, when Mr. Ichiro Santo, a descendent of a Samurai family from Wakayama Prefecture, imported 450 rose varieties from the US. In the same year, some residents in the foreign settlement in Yokohama also seemed to have imported roses from the UK. In 1873, the Hokkaido Development Bureau imported roses from the US. In 1875, Parsons on the Rose, an American rose book written by Samuel B. Parsons (1869), was translated and published in Japan. The pictures of roses in the original version were reproduced accurately, using the traditional Japanese wood engraving technique. We can see in those pictures the passion of the publishers to introduce the latest information on roses faithfully.

In the same year (1875), the first Mitate-Banzuke (literally ‘appreciation ranking-list’) was published in Tokyo. It was a table of rose rankings in the style of the sumo wrestling ranking. The five Banzuke lists are exhibited in the show case in the center of this room. Roses imported from abroad were given new Japanese names for sale on the Japanese market. Nurseries in the Meiji period planted roses in their properties, and in the flowering seasons opened them to the public. Here is a map of rose gardens in Tokyo in those days, made by referring to the names and addresses of nurseries listed on those Mitate-Banzuke.

Gengo Hikita, Kisuke Kobayashi
“Kakkoku Bara Hana Kurabe”
(= Table of Rose Rankings in Sumo Style, published in Kyoto)
<Natural History Museum & Institute, Chiba> 


7. Resurrection of the Culture of Roses in Japan

Though the rose culture of Japan was seriously damaged by the Second World War, there appeared a person who served as a powerful driving force for its resurrection. His name was Seizo Suzuki.

During the war, while Mr. Suzuki was drafted for service, Mrs. Haruyo Suzuki devoted herself to the preservation of the collection of rare roses her husband had built up. Mr. Suzuki, who was demobilized after the war, established the New Japan Rose Society (the precursor of the Japan Rose Society) in 1948, just three years after the war. In the same year, he held the first rose show in Ginza, Tokyo. Then, in a few years, many local rose societies were established in Japan, and rose gardens were opened in many places. The first rose garden in Chiba Prefecture was opened in around 1950 on the property of Shikiba Hospital in Ichikawa City. The director of the hospital, Mr. Ryuzaburo Shikiba, was nominated as the director of the Japan Rose Society, and contributed greatly to the development of rose culture in Japan after World War II. 

In 1957, Mr. Suzuki helped the Keisei Electric Railway Co. open a rose garden in an amusement park Yatsu Yu’en. In those days, he was running his own nursery ‘Todoroki Bara-en’ in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, but soon after the opening of this rose garden, he moved to Yachiyo City in Chiba Prefecture to work as the director of the Research Institute of the Keisei Rose Nursery. 

The number of new rose varieties raised by Mr. Suzuki was over 130. He got medals in International Rose Trials, and was known all over the world as “Mr. Rose”. His contribution to Japan’s rosedom was not limited to his breeding work. He was active in collaborative researches of rose fragrances and of the pigments of rose flowers, with universities and other companies. He published many rose books for the general public, and his efforts to establish plant patent laws to save the rights of breeders in Japan should be registered long in rose lovers’ memory.

Thanks to his, and many other rose-lovers’ efforts, Japan has now grown into one of the major rose-loving nations of the world! 

Mr. Seizo Suzuki in 1997