5 flowers of Japan (part 2)

Here it is, the second part about typical flowers of Japan! Below, the link to the first part and other articles on the subject.

紫陽花や帷子時の薄浅黄
ajisai ya katabira doki no usu-asagi
hydrangeas – it’s time for a blue-colored linen kimono
Basho


1. Wisteria (藤 – Fuji)
Together with cherry and plum blossoms, wisteria is one of the flowers that Japanese people favour, both to admire and to be used in gardens and decorations. In addition, wisteria grows near the precinct of temples and shrines, and is usually grown on trellises and wooden pergolas, so that it is easier to admire the flowers, especially when a little breeze is blowing. In Tokyo, you can find beautiful pergolas with wisteria in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace and at Sensoji, where you will find a refreshment area with benches, for a moment of break away from the crowds of tourists. In fact, one of the reasons why the wisteria is grown on pergolas or arches is to exploit the shadow created by the rich foliage in summer. The tradition of admiring the wisteria (in addition to the most well-known hanami for cherry blossoms) began in the Heian period and became a popular activity under the rule of the Fujiwara clan. Wisteria also appears in the family’s crest and the kanji is easily found even today in various Japanese surnames. The oldest wisteria in Japan is at Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi Prefecture, about two hours from Tokyo. The largest wisteria in the world is found in Sierra Madre, California.

2. Primrose (桜草 – Sakurasou)
Another symbol of spring, tufts of primroses are often found in Japan, from gardens to banks to small city beds. Many varieties of primrose are native to the Himalayas and for this reason they struggle to grow in not humid and cool climates. A Japanese legend tells the story of a young packhorse driver, who made a living by transporting passengers who wanted to go beyond the mountains. The young man used to wake up early to cut the grass for his horse, and in the meantime he sang with his beautiful voice. One evening, returning from work, he saw a beautiful girl in front of the house asking for hospitality for the night; the young man, timidly, pointed out to her that it was not the best idea, partly because he was poor and had nothing to offer her. The girl, however, insisted and, as soon as she entered the house, she began to clean, tidy and cook; in the end, she told him: “It must be sad to live alone: ​​I will stay longer to help you”. So she did, she became his wife and spent many years with the young man. One morning, however, when he noticed a beautiful flower among the grass he had put in the horse’s manger, the young man wanted to call his wife to admire it together. Despite calling her loudly, she did not answer. Entering the house, the young man found her semi-conscious on the kitchen floor. “I listened to your songs every morning, and my dream was to marry with a man with such a beautiful voice. My dream came true, I was your wife and we lived happily. Now I have to tell you the truth: I am the spirit that lived in the primrose you cut this morning. Once the primrose was cut, my life is over, but I was so happy to be your wife, thank you for everything.” In saying this, she became unconscious in her husband’s arms and soon disappeared.
In the Primula sieboldii variety, the primrose has been popular and cultivated in Japan since the Edo period.

3. Hydrangea (紫陽花 – Ajisai)
Although it has always been used as an ornamental plant, hydrangea is considered a medical herb, in particular to treat kidney disorders and, although toxic, the leaves have been used in Japan and Korea to make a very sweet tea. There are varieties of hydrangea cultivated for ornamental purposes, or wild, the latter in large numbers: perhaps this is why the hydrangea was not initially very popular, since it was commonly found throughout Japan. After a brief moment of success during the Heian period, the larger-scale cultivation of the hydrangea became popular only after the Second World War, with the introduction of plants from the United States, due to the strong presence of the plant in Japan already before. The color changes according to the acidity of the soil: if the pH is acidic, the hydrangea has a color closer to blue, otherwise the color is more similar to purple and pink.

4. Hollyhocks (葵 – Aoi)
Still referring to family emblems, the leaves of the hollyhock are found on that of the Tokugawa family, who had rejected the imperial chrysanthemum to show their support for the shogunate. Since in the 6th century it was believed that the leaves of the hollyhocks protected from storms and earthquakes, Aoi Matsuri was created to appease the gods of the Kamo sanctuaries: this festival is one of the oldest and is still celebrated today in Kyoto in May. To find out more about the festival, follow the link below.

5. Jasmine (ジャスミン – Jasmin)
Fragrant and loved by the gardeners just for this characteristic, jasmine has always been used in various preparations. Perfumes, medicines and teas, jasmine is particularly indicated in aromatherapy to recreate a state that goes from wellness to euphoria, but it is also excellent for feeling relaxed. My favorite tea is flavored with jasmine: contrary to what you may think, jasmine is added only when the tea leaves are ready, or jasmine is not infused with the leaves. Jasmine flowers are placed, still closed, together with the tea leaves, releasing their sweet scent as the petals open; the whole process can take from four to six hours, after which the petals are often removed, as they have now lost all the fragrance, even if sometimes they are left to create a beautiful chromatic effect.

 

Related articles:
5 flowers of Japan (part 1)
5 Things to do in Japan this Spring
Japanese festivals: Hana Matsuri

Featured image: photo credit: markkilner Primroses via photopin (license)

Leave a Reply