One of the things I love most about Japan is how many flowers bloom in Japan, nearly year-round. When we experienced our first Japanese autumn two years ago, I was enchanted by all the wild, red flowers that burst into bloom along roadsides and train tracks, as well as filling up all the local parks. A friend of mine had told me something about them two years ago; yesterday, all I could remember is that these brilliant, crimson flowers somehow reminded her of cemeteries. So I shot her an email this morning to see if she could jog my memory. Fortunately for this blog, she did!
"These flowers are called Higanbana (Cluster amaryllis, or red spider lily). 'Higan' means equinoctial week, which occurs twice a year. We see these in September a lot, which makes them a symbol of the autumn Higan. During equinoctial week, which lasts for three days at the spring and autumn equinoxes, people visit their ancestors' graves. You can see the flowers at a lot of graves and cemeteries."
A Google search also pulled up a few other interesting facts; due to its poisonous bulbs, the higanbana was apparently deliberately planted in graveyards to keep burrowing animals from eating the deceased (I'm not sure how accurate that fact is, as the Japanese cremate their dead.). Also, because the leaves and flowers of this plant never appear at the same time, the higanbana is also said to symbolize lovers who are kept apart and cannot meet. A great flower for deployment, then! Higanbana even make an appearance in Buddhism's Lotus Sutra as the flower which guides the dead through hell and to their next reincarnation.
Soooo...the red spider lily is not a happy plant, in spite of its beauty. I will continue to admire them anyways and keep them away from Little TF...I didn't know they were poisonous. Yikes!
Disclaimer: I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate. However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong. Please let me know if something needs a correction. Thank-you!