Even people with limited knowledge of Japan can notice the importance of flowers in Japanese culture. From the cherry blossom, found everywhere in haiku verses and manga, to the chrysanthemum often used on dishes, the symbolism of flowers plays an essential role in Japanese art, literature, and daily life. Japanese flowers are much admired around the world. Japanese people, like foreigners, contemplate their colors and delicacy.
Flowers are also appreciated in the west and have strong symbols, such as the chrysanthemum in autumn. However, every month has its flower. The queen of Japanese flowers is, indeed, the cherry blossom, or sakura. This article examines the most beautiful Japanese flower names, highlighting their symbols and meanings.
As you read this, discover the following points:
• Japanese Flowers: An Essential Element of Traditions
• Ikebana: Japanese Floral Arrangement
• Japanese Flowers: A World of Symbols
• Japanese Flowers in the Spotlight
• The Meaning of Japanese Birth Month Flowers
Japanese Flowers: An Essential Element of Traditions
The arrival of spring is a national event in Japan. It symbolizes the opening of the first flowers. The importance of flowers to the Japanese is derived from their Shinto beliefs, historically one of the oldest. Also, flowers are so deeply rooted in Japanese spirituality that during the Second World War, Japanese soldiers had to think of the sakura flowers to give themselves courage, and then continued the fight in the hope of seeing them bloom again.
Ikebana: Japanese Floral Arrangement
Ikebana, or the art of Japanese flower arrangement, is practiced by some 15 million people in the Land of the Rising Sun. Its origin dated back in the 15th century. Ikebana has crossed many borders, attracting new followers all over the world. For millennia, flowers have been used as a holy offering. Still, in Japan, it has evolved over the centuries to become one of the most appreciated art forms of quintessential Japanese art. First practiced by monks, the popularity of Ikebana in Japan has shifted from the monks and samurai environment to women and artists. Its formal standards have continued to evolve in a surprising and increasingly artistic way.
Ikebana is a floral art. It emphasizes the beauty of flowers and the harmony of colors. For the Japanese, the entire design is of particular importance. Ikebana values the flower, the shape of the plant, but also the leaves, the stems, and even the pot in which it rests. They highlight the beautiful flowers, but also the buds and wilted flowers, and all this with great respect. The structure of the floral arrangement is based on three symbols: the sky, the earth, and humanity.
Japanese Flowers: A World of Symbols
Spring flower: The flowers of the Sakura, or ornamental cherry tree of Japan, represent renewal and the ephemeral. The national Hanami ceremony (meaning “looking at the flowers”) usually takes place in late March or early April. This tree, to which an original cult is dedicated, is present in all public spaces. There are more than 600 varieties of Sakuras, but the favorite is the somei yoshino, a hardy flower that belongs to the rosaceae family.
Good to know: when the season comes, the Japanese weather programs specify, as the Hanami approaches, the evolution of the buds and the blossoming date of the flowers.
Japanese Flowers in the Spotlight
The climate of the Japanese archipelago has some of the coldest to the warmest temperatures. In addition to their symbolism and beauty, Japanese flowers have the merit of being very resistant.
Here are the most famous:
The lotus: known to have bloomed from an ancient seed (1,300 years ago for some, or 2,000 years ago for others), the lotus is considered the oldest flower in the world. In the Buddhist religion, it is assimilated to purity, because it is extracted from stagnant water. The “Nelumbo Nucifera” variety is the most widely used in Japan, and this aquatic perennial is resistant in frozen water down to -15 degrees.”
The iris japonica: also called “fringed iris,” it comes from the iridaceae family. Cultivated in sterile form in Japan, it resists up to -10 degrees and has the particularity of being very luminous, even in shady areas. The flowering is short and unusually bright.
The Japanese apricot tree: or “prunus mume,” comes from the rosaceae family. This tree is non-freezing, down to -25 degrees, and not affected by frost. This deciduous fruit tree succeeds cherry trees during the Hanami. The most widespread varieties are albas, aphandii, and beni chidori.
Note: other very resistant (but less symbolic) flowers or plants that are grown in Japan are: the Japanese azalea, the Japanese coral, the Japanese maple, the ginkgo biloba, and, of course, the Japanese turf.
The Meaning of Japanese Birth Month Flowers
January: Plum blossoms start the Japanese flower festival! One of the most popular places for a cool hanami is Yoshino Baigo in Okutama, a town north of Tokyo Prefecture, with no less than 25,000 plum trees! You can find about 10,000 more trees if you go to Odawara, a city in Kanagawa Prefecture not far from Mount Fuji.
February: Adonis ramosa, or more commonly known as adonis, is the Japanese flower of February. With its pretty yellow petals, it brings life to Japan’s winter landscapes as it represents happiness. It used to grow from Hokkaidô to Kyûshû on the Pacific coast but is now rare in its natural state. You can admire it in the botanical garden in Kyoto.
April: The Japanese flower that symbolizes spring is the cherry blossom! If you are in Tôkyô, we advise you to organize a hanami at Shinjuku Koen.
May: You’re not going to be very out of place this time since the Japanese flower of May is the lily of the valley! It evokes the sweetness of spring. And with this new season approaching, Japanese flowers are growing in all directions, and Japanese wisteria is also in the spotlight in May. There are several wisteria festivals: for example, the one at the Byodoin Temple in Uji in Kyoto.
June: The Japanese iris is one of the Japanese flowers in June. It evokes good news and fidelity. Like the camellia, there are many varieties of iris in Japan (about 5000), and some are in danger of extinction in their natural state, such as the beautiful purple iris. You can still enjoy the flowering of the irises in the garden of the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo!
July: The ipomea is the name of the Japanese flower of July. It means “the face of the morning.”The ipomea symbolizes the arrival of summer and is one of the most used herbs for green curtains, which you can place on a balcony, for example.
The Archipel of Japan has a charm like no other. In the land of the Rising Sun, the many traditional ceremonies devote a special place to flowers and their symbolism. The mixture of refinement and meditation invites the Japanese to serenity, to the rhythm of the flowering season.