By Jean Somerville-Rabbitt.
This article is sponsored by TalesofYui.com – Rare gifts and collectibles from Japan.
The chrysanthemum holds a special place in the heart of many Japanese people. It may just appear to be another pretty flower, with elongated petals emerging from the strong centre of the globular flower head, but in reality, the meaning of the chrysanthemum is far more important than it may seem.
The chrysanthemum, known as kiku (菊) in Japanese, is the symbol of autumn in Japan. It is at this time of year that the flower blooms most brightly. Once a flower begins to bloom, specialist chrysanthemum growers use custom-made sticks to meticulously train the petals to point upwards. This painstaking attention to detail ensures that the flower has a distinctive and unique look with its some 300 petals all pointing straight up.
Chrysanthemums originated in China, and were later transported to Japan where they have been long admired for their elegance. Chrysanthemum has long been associated with notions of rejuvenation and longevity. In times past, people would use use cloths to wipe chrysanthemum dew on their skin on Chrysanthemum Day, which is on the 9th day of the 9th month of the year, in hopes of maintaining their youth. Today it is still very popular to have chrysanthemum motifs on pieces of clothing and furnishings.
In the early 13th century, the retired emperor Gotoba fashioned for himself a sword with a chrysanthemum motif upon it and since that time the chrysanthemum design has been used as the flower of the Imperial House of Japan. Furthermore, the “Chrysanthemum Throne” is the name afforded to the seat of the Japanese Emperor. From the Heian to the Meiji period, Chrysanthemum Festivals were held so aristocrats would be able to view and admire the flowers. Today, the Chrysanthemum can even be seen on the back of the 50 yen coin, an obvious display of the importance of this flower to the Japanese.
The vast diversity of colours of chrysanthemums also holds special significance. White chrysanthemums symbolise grief while red chrysanthemums are often thought to symbolise feelings of love and affection when given as a gift to a special someone. Therefore careful consideration must be undertaken whenever a gift of chrysanthemums is to be given as one should be certain that they are sending the right message. For example, white chrysanthemums should never be given as gifts to the ill or be given as a gift. There are over a hundred different varieties of chrysanthemum in Japan, so it is truly a delightful and interesting task to find the one flower that best fits a person’s taste and suits the occasion.