Home > Japanese Culture > The flowers can point out the way to the stairway to heaven

The flowers can point out the way to the stairway to heaven

It’s been a long time for me to introduce something about Japanese to you. This time, I’ll try to do it.

I went to a park in our city to see higan bana last month. Is it ok to express it as ‘spider lily’ in English? ‘bana’, the word used in higan bana originally means ‘flower'(hana), but it turned into bana when it is sometimes used after other nouns.

Did you know the meaning of higan? In Japan, elderly people treat westwards as gokuraku(the word used among Buddhism as heaven). And there are two days every year in Japan in which the sun rises up from the right East and falls down into the right West. The Japanese call them shunbun no hi and shuubun no hi and name them higan.

When I was a kid, my parents urged me not to touch higan bana because it is said that higan bana has poison in their flower bulbs. In fact, you have no problem even though you touch them unless you eat the bulb, so anyone can touch higan bana. You can see higan bana around fields or graveyards. People plant them in order to prevent mice or moles from getting vegetables, rice and dead bodies. (Now that dead bodies are buried after they are burned, however, we had the custom of burials in old days)

In our city, volunteers plant over 2 million bulbs of higan bana along the river across the city. There is a park nearby the higan bana road associated with one famous auther of children’s book, Nankichi Niimi. You can see the red carpet of higan bana at the peak hour, but unfortunately the time had already gone when I was there. In the website of our city, you can see their red and the scene of marriage ceremony in Japanese style. Here, it is.

I took some photos of higan bana. I’m happy you would enjoy them.



  1. November 30, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Is the Equinox what you’re talking about? One marks the first day of fall, the other, the first day of spring? I think I have heard of a spiderlily. Give me a minute, I’ll get back to you.

    • honeypotter
      December 1, 2009 at 4:42 pm

      Yeah, that’s it! ‘equinox’ is what I wanted to write. ‘the spring equinox!’, ‘autumn equinox’, we call them each day ‘shunbun no hi‘ and ‘shuubun no hi‘. shun is the way to call ‘spring’ by Chinise reading, and shuu is to call ‘fall or autumn’ by Chinise reading.

  2. November 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Ooh~ See I didn’t load the pictures at first just the words on your post. So I didn’t see them. I can tell you right now what those are. They’re Lycorises!!! (or Lycorii; both are exceptable plural forms: Lycoris is the singular form) It’s pronounced: LAI-kor-is. And that’s ‘is’, not ‘iz’ like how ‘is’, the word, sounds. Just ask me to say it for you when we talk on the phone, if that’s confusing.

  3. November 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Lycoris Radiata, also known as the Red Spider Lily. 😉 Tada! Did you know japan invented its own form of buddhism, called ‘Zen Buddhism’? So is ‘Tengoku’ shinto’s heaven, then?

    • honeypotter
      December 1, 2009 at 4:49 pm

      Oh, other name…lycoris!

      Yeah, I guess ‘Zen sct’ was originated from Japan. I don’t know how to correctly tell you the difference between tengoku and gokuraku, but maybe gokuraku is used in the Buddhism world. I just bought one book referring to Shinto, but I haven’t read it yet. After I finish reading the book, I think I can tell you what tengoku in the Shinto world.

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