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

November 29, 2009 5 comments

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.

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