As autumn’s chills continue to get colder, the time to warm up with a nice bowl of rice porridge is drawing near.
In Japan, it’s tradition to eat a mix of 7 spring herbs on the 7th of January in a ritual meant to ward off illness and bad luck, but did you know autumn has 7 plants too? Unlike their spring counterparts that ward of illness, these 7 are meant to be enjoyed by looking at them.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce these 7 wonderful flowers!
It is said that the origin of the 7 autumn flowers can be traced back to two poems composed by the poet Yamanoue no Okura, that are found in the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest known collection of poems, compiled between the second half of the 7th century and the second half of the 8th century.
“Aki no no ni sakitaru hana wo oyobiori Kakikazofureba nanakusa no hana” (When I count on my fingers the flowers that bloom in the autumn fields, I find there are seven.)
Manyoshu Book 8; 1537, Yamanoue no Okura.
“Hagi no hana Obana kuzuhana nadeshikonohana ominaeshi mata fujibakama asagaho no hana”
(Bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, Pueraria Lobata, dianthus, Patrinia Scabiosaefolia, thoroughwort and bellflower.)
Manyoshu Book 8; 1538, Yamanoue no Okura.
It is generally believed that the 7 autumn flowers’ origin is found in these 2 poems.
The origin of the 7 autumn flowers.
The 7 autumn flowers.
1) Hagi (Bush Clover)
Hagi is a flower that represents autumn. Ohagi, the Japanese sweet that is handed out during the Ohigan holiday in fall gets its name from this flower. Hagi is a Japanese mugwort shrub with red-purple flowers that is held in very high regard by the Japanese. It is mentioned many times in the Manyoshu.
In flower language it represents; Meditation, bashfulness, affection, positive love and flexible spirit.
2) Obana (Japanese Pampas Grass)
Obana is a type of Japanese pampas grass that is also sometimes called Kaya. It's said that the origin of its name is linked to the fact that its ears resemble animal tails. All over Japan it is put on display during moon viewings as it is believed to bring safety and good health.
In flower language it represents; Power, life energy, vitality, reckless youth and relating to others.
3) Kuzu (East Asian arrowroot)
Kuzu is a vine plant that is part of the legume family and is well known for its use in making arrowroot gruel, arrowroot cake and Kuzukiri noodles.
The Kuzu stalk is used for weaving baskets or making fabric and “kakkon” or dried Kuzu stalk is used as a folk remedy for colds or gastrointestinal problems. Whether it is taken as medicine or used to make clothing, Kuzu is a plant that has always been part of Japanese life since ancient times.
In flower language it represents; Healing, vitality, patience, effort, strength of spirit and the lover’s sigh.
4) Nadeshiko (Dianthus)
This cute pink flower of the Nadeshiko genus has become a symbol for the beauty and elegance of Japanese women. It is also called “ Endless summer”. The Nadeshiko in Yamato Nadeshiko refers to this flower and in the Edo period it was used as decoration during newyear celebrations that followed a year filled with natural disasters and bad luck. It is also used for its medicinal properties.
In flower language it represents; Pure love, innocence, chastity, talent, boldness, and eternal love.
5) Ominaeshi (Patrinia Scabiosaefolia)
Ominaeshi is a perennial plant from which many small yellow flowers bloom.
It owes its name to the fact that it was said to “Posses a beauty that overshadowed even the beauty of women.” This flower has been beloved by people for its elegance and beauty since ancient times.
It is also beloved by poets, and it appears in many poems and haiku. On top of that the roots of the Ominaeshi have detoxifing, pain killing and diuretic properties.
In flower language it represents; Beauty, kindness, fleeting love, caring and the keeping of promises.
6) Fujibakama (Thoroughwort)
Fujibakama is a perennial plant from the Asteraceae family that has pale purple flowers.
It gets its name from its cylindrical valve shape that resembles a hakama. When dried its smells reminds of the leaves in which sakuramochi are wrapped, causing it to be used as an ingredients in perfumes and hair wash products. Fujibakama used to be found growing on riversides but it has been declared an endangered plant and is currently rarely found in the wild.
In flower language it represents; Caring, fond memories and pleasant memories.
7) Kikyo (Bellflower)
It is generally believed that the poem “Asagaho” by Yamanoue no Okura refers to the Kikyo flower. The flower has a star shape and purple-blue color and it is presented to the departed during Obon. Because of its alluring shape, it was also used as a family crest symbol by many military commanders.
One of the more famous examples is Akechi Mitsuhide’s light blue bellflower crest.
Powdered Kikyo roots are used as a remedy against phlegm and cough. Just like the Fujibakama, Kikyo has been declared an endangered plant, and is rarely found in the wild.
In flower language it represents; Elegance, refinement, honesty, steadfast love and gentle warmth.
apanese people often set things they want to remember to a catchy rythm.
Rythms with patterns like 5,7,5 and 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 are used in Haiku and Tanka poetry so they sound very natural and easy to remember to Japanese people.
So those were the 7 autumn flowers, what did you think?
Since ancient times these flowers have been very beloved in Japan.
Do you think you can try and remember them?
Draft storyboard & illustration by Hanako Takahashi
Please click here for the MANGA WORK SHOP @MDJ's Article!
→ Read more articles of Traditional Culture
→ Read more articles of Manga de Japan