2005/11/23

Mum's the Word!

Some of the photos in this post can be viewed in larger format by clicking on them. You may need to do so in order to see some of the things I comment about.

November is the month when chrysanthemums are in bloom. Called kiku in Japan, almost every garden has some variety of them to brighten up the landscape. This morning, I took the picture below in my neighborhood.

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Oddly, Momo The Wonder Dog likes the smell of chrysanthemum leaves - she doesn't give whit about the flowers, just the leaves. Just shows perhaps how humans and dogs differ in which of the senses they each favor. We get more information through our eyes, dogs through their noses.

Chrysanthemums are as much loved in Japan as anywhere else (in fact, the flowers originated in China and Japan) and the Japanese Imperial Family has used the chrysanthemum as its family crest for over 700 years. I read that, according to Feng Shui beliefs, the chrysanthemum brings laughter and happiness to your home.

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Floral displays of mums line the path to Kashima Jingu.

Every November, the City of Kashima puts on an exhibition of the flowers at Kashima Jingu Shrine. Participants display their flowers which are judged and the best awarded ribbons. I had no idea how many colors and varieties there are.

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On the left, a father tries to gather his children for a portrait, while on the right, an older girl in kimono poses with the flowers adorning the gate.

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Some are grown onto a wire frame and shaped to become flower cranes, turtles, trees, or fans. The gate of the shrine, built in 1634, is decorated with flowered fans, birds and mounds.

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One of my favorites.


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Some varieties are grown on wires to keep the stems straight and have a single large, but delicate, blossom at the top. They resemble exploding fireworks to me.

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Others look like marshmallow "show balls".


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There are even chrysanthemum bonsai plants.


In addition to the chrysanthemum exhibition, November 15th is Shichi-go-san - literally "7, 5, 3" - a day for parents to pray at the shrine for the health and longevity of their young children at those ages. The children come to the shrine in their best clothes, whether Western style or traditional Japanese.

The significance of the ages 7, 5, and 3 correspond to old traditions. Back in the old days, kids aged three stopped getting their heads shaved and were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys aged five would wear hakama, traditional pants, for the first time in public. Girls aged seven would begin using obi - the wide decorative sash - to tie their kimono instead of cords.

There is additional significance in the numbers, as historically many Japanese, like many Chinese, regard odd numbers as lucky. Adding the three numbers results in 15, also lucky, so the date has been set as November 15th since the Edo period.

The parents buy the children chitose-ame, or longevity candy.

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Chitose means 1,000 years. The candy, which is red and white wheat gluten, is in the shape of a stick and comes in long paper bags decorated with turtles and cranes - more symbols of longevity.

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A little girl in kimono pauses for a precious moment, which I am lucky enough to capture with the camera. My friend YD of the blog Perspective shared this quote that comes to mind at times like this: 'The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality'. (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1908-2004).

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People come to pray at the main hall, called "hondo", accented by yellow chrysanthemum displays. Note the boy on the right is carrying a bag of chitose-ame. The hondo was built in 1619. The cedar just behind the building is over 1,000 years old.

If you're ever in Kashima City in the month of November, remember that mum's the word, and treat yourself to a stroll through Kashima Jingu.

11 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

I really need to get back there...and this time take the family.


fonhopfg - What young deer do in October.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Rats...the academy is right next door to Kashima Shrine, and I missed the mum bit. Too much going on in the music department, I guess...

vhiuzif - Cardassian for "little finger".

Pandabonium said...

Come on over Snabby & co. I'm sure Moody would be happy to see you folks, and K and I would be happy to meet ya.

Moody-san, you can stilll see the mums at the shrine until the end of the month, though some of them might look a little tired. :P


mdnlt - Scottish for twenty-four hundred hours.

Lrong said...

Good writeout of the 'mums'... I have also seen similar ones that you described... always come away impressed with how meticulous (sp?) the Japanese treat their mums... good blog you have there...

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Good place that you are living in, my friend. One thing that frustrated me much while i am in Japan was the right timing for wonderful event like this!

I hope the Feng Shui effect is still there, because i drank Chrysanthemums tea instead of planting one :)

The Moody Minstrel said...

That pic of the little girl in the kimono is priceless. You should try to market it to a magazine or travel agency or what-not.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks lrong. After visiting your blog I am envious of your vegetable garden. Wow.

@low@, chrysanthemums are part of the daisy family as is camomile which also makes good tea. Both are very good for you. Supposed to mellow you out for a good rest, which you surely need after going shrimping and cycling!

Thanks Moody. She is precious. When the girl was standing with her parents I was reluctant to take a photo without permission, so when she wandered a short distance away and then stood still as if reflecting on something, I grabbed the shot.


wsrmbo - Mambo as danced in Poland

Happysurfer said...

Pandabonium, you should be writing articles on travel. Are you? I learned so much from yr commentary. Those pictures are awesome! Moody is right about the picture of the little girl. Like yr article on the snakes too - cuts out a lot of myths about them. Thanks.

YD said...

The photo of the little girl... that MOMENT! it is just perfect.
I love the way photos catches a precious moment, even it is just a split second or activity, or inactivity. From a moment to an eternality.

Speaking of chrysanthemums (I hope i spelled correctly), guess what? with the flu and cough going on in our house right now, a big pot of chrysanthemums, and also other herbal teas, are always on our stoves. We did chrysanthemums, chinese herbal soup, chicken soup, bean soup, loh han guo, etc etc... we really went all out to fight the virus in the house!

I am recovering, luckily. My poor housemate has to resort to the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor to fight the virus.

One thing for sure, (luckily again) it is not bird flu. :-)

Pandabonium said...

Welcome back YD! Your blogging buddies have been worried about you. 'Glad you are over the flu and feeling better now.

Yeah, those mums (easier to spell) are not just pretty, but can be good for you too.

Kids Furniture said...

Gosh those pics brought back memories! I really need to go and to take the kidsths time/