Hanakotoba — The Japanese Language of Flowers

It’s known that flowers have meanings, which vary in different cultures. You can express your emotions and thoughts through them. This means you should be cautious when you present someone with a bouquet. However, this doesn’t mean everyone knows the language of flowers.

Back in the Victorian Era, flowers were used as a means of communications. People used them as codes for what they wanted to say. But don’t think that they were the only ones. The Chinese and Japanese incorporated flowers in their art in culture long before the British. There’s even a Japanese equivalent of the language of flowers — hanakotoba. The fragile beauties are dominant in their art, clothes, even in legal documents and the national symbol. Even the art of Ikebana is an expression of sentiments and emotions through a combination between nature and art. Here are some flowers and their meanings:

The rose is the Western queen of the flowers, but she bowls down to the peony in China and Japan. They refer to it as “the king of flowers”. It symbolises masculinity, together with distinction, brightness, kindness and good luck. Peony is often called “the Flower of Riches and Honours”, suitable to be a gift for the Gods.

The most religious flower symbol of China and Japan is the lotus. It’s closely related to Buddha and stands for an emblem of truth, perfection, and immortality. It’s a special symbol of purity, because it rises white and beautiful from the mud. It’s also used to show the past, the present, and the future, because the seed pods, open flowers, and buds are found in the plant at the same time.

The blossoms of early flowering trees have a special place in Oriental cultures. The peach blooms in spring, the season of many marriages, thus it symbolises matrimony. The plum blossoms represent perseverance, female virtue and tenderness. But the most important flowering tree in Japan is the cherry. It’s a symbol of everything in life that is considered as high-minded and honourable. Cherry blossoms are also closely related to samurai warriors, who didn’t make plans for the future but constantly tried to improve themselves. The cherry tree flowers depict how fast life can pass by. They bloom magnificently but fall to the ground in a short while.

The chrysanthemum is the symbol of the Emperor and the Imperial family in Japan. It appears on the Imperial Seal, the Japanese passports and the 50 yen coin. It’s also an emblem of autumn and represents joviality and life of ease. On the other hand, it can mean endurance or wholeness. White chrysanthemums are used for funerals, and red are given to the person you love. Be careful not to mix them up.

You can also use flowers to express love and affection. Red camellias mean “persisting with grace” and you can use them to show you are in love. Yellow camellias are a symbol of longing and waiting for the one you want. Gardenias stand up for a secret or unrequited love. But be careful when you send a cactus flower to Japanese. It symbolises lust and sex. You can easily be misunderstood.

There are many species of lilies and they represent different things. The white lily is a symbol of chastity and purity. The orange lily means revenge or hatred, and the tiger lily depicts wealth. When the spider lily blooms, its leaves would have fallen, and when the leaves grow, the flowers would have withered. There’s an interesting legend about this habit. Two elves were assigned to watch over the red spider lily. Manju guarded the flower, and Saka guarded the leaves. Out of curiosity they defied their fate to watch over the flower and met each other. They immediately fell in love, but God was angry at them because they abandoned their duties. He separated the unfortunate couple and laid a curse on them. The flowers of Manju shall never again meet the leaves of Saka. After both of them died and met again in the Otherworld they made a promise to meet again after reincarnation. However, neither of them could keep their word. Thus the meaning of this sorrowful flower is abandonment, never to meet again. It’s often used in funerals and you can see it growing near cemeteries. People say that it’s Hell’s flower and it guides the dead into the next reincarnation.

The iris is a symbol of good news. If you send someone freesias, this means they are behaving like a child. When you present a person with daffodils, you actually say that you respect them. A red poppy flower means fun-loving, the yellow symbolises success, and the white stands for rejoice.

When you see a rose you associate it with love, but it actually depends on its colour. The white rose is a symbol of devotion, innocence, silence, and the red one means love. The pink rose stands for confidence, trust and happiness, while the yellow says you are jealous or feeling pangs.

Many of the flowers mentioned above can be found in the flower shops. Next time you want to give a bouquet to someone, carefully choose the flowers. They can say everything instead of you. You can also grow most of the beautiful blooms in your garden. Gardeners from Reading remind you to choose flowers that can grow in your country. Most species do well in almost every part of the world, but some of them require special conditions. Do a little research before you bring them home. You can also find a handy how-to-grow guide on the internet on consult with and expert.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.