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Showing posts from September, 2012

Higanbana, a flower of loss and longing

I love this flower. I love all flowers, but this one, ah, this one comes packaged with the most wonderful stories. Its scientific name is Lycoris radiata; in English it's red spider lily; in Japanese it has several names including higanbana (ヒガンバナ), in other words, autumn equinox flower.

It's also referred to as manjusaka (曼珠沙華), based on an old Chinese legend about two elves: Manju guarded the flowers and Saka the leaves, but they could never meet, because the plant never bears flowers and leaves at the same time. They were curious about each other, so they defied the gods' instructions and arranged a meeting. I assume it was not via Twitter. The gods promptly punished them, as gods are wont to do, and separated them for all eternity.
To this day, the red lily is associated with loss, longing, abandonment and lost memories in hanakotoba(花言葉), the language of flowers. It's believed that if you meet a person you'll never see again, these flowers will grow along your…

A shrine that ensures luxuriant pubic hair

I've outdone myself! The intrepid researcher who found sacred places for dead stories, marathon runners, bad eyesight, recovering stolen items, murderers, expecting mothers, etc, etc, etc … this brave hunter has now found a shrine that ensures luxuriant pubic hair. Specifically for women.

You think I'm joking?

When I first read about this, I was surprised. Let me explain this as delicately as possible. I grew up surrounded by natural blondes in a country where women spend half their lives on beaches, in other words, trimming is fairly common. Then I started going to onsen in Japan, where I saw hundreds of naked women. It was … different.
It reminds me of the first time I saw an advertisement for "bridal shaving". It wasn't referring to the body part I thought it was referring to. Here's an excerpt from Laura Miller's book Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics:
Face shaving is an ancient beauty work in Japan, and many woodblock prints …

Bush clover, the flower of autumn

It's a modest plant, easy to overlook, yet it used to be Japan's most beloved flower.

Bush clover (ハギ, hagi) is mentioned in 141* poems in the Manyōshū (万葉集, Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), Japan's first anthology of poetry, compiled in the 8th century. That far exceeds the 119 poems about the second-most popular flower, plum blossoms. The latter was revered as an exotic import from China; the former was praised for its rustic simplicity.

Bush clover grows about 3 m in height and has long, slender branches that droop across paths. The branches represent feminine elegance, but it's also a symbol of vigour thanks to its ability to produce young shoots from old stock. It flowers in September, when summer's heat lingers, but it's believed that if you can see dew drops on the plant's small green leaves, you know that autumn is near.

Nowadays the flower attracts little attention. There aren't any good bush clover viewing spots in Tokyo that I know of, apart…