Japan: The Nation That Loves Flowers


Nov 06, 2014 by Smart Blog

In Japan, flowers are more than attractive decorations - they are a fundamental part of the country's culture. Shinto, the original religion of Japan, holds that gods exist in every living thing, and even in the twenty-first century, this idea has a deep root in the Japanese national psyche.


Flower Festivals

As a result, Japan celebrates a different flower every month, and hanami (literally, 'flower viewing') is a popular pastime, with thousands gathering in public spaces to watch flowers and trees in their transient bloom. Sometimes, these turn into flower-viewing festivals or parties, and each year the public eagerly awaits the cherry blossom front forecast - a kind of weather forecast for tree blossom, which predicts the movement of cherry blossom across Japan from March to May.


Art Forms

Flowers, both real and created, are highly visible in Japanese culture. Blooms can be seen in art, on clothing and decorative fabrics - pretty much everywhere, in fact. Even the yakuza (members of notorious, mafia-style, organised crime gangs that operate around the world but have their origins - and a strong presence - in Japan) tend to have cherry blossom and lotus flowers included in their full-body tattoos. In Japan, a love of flowers is clearly not for wimps.

Most Japanese homes contain flowers in some form, and the ancient art of ikebana, a type of minimalist flower arranging, is still widely practised. Ikebana arrangements are distinctively simple, often consisting of just a sprig or bloom or two, since in Japan the arrangement of too many flowers is often seen as extravagant and wasteful.

Experts in ikebana must learn the meaning behind each flower and their combinations, which can take years. The language of flowers, or hanakotoba, is another Japanese tradition that is intended to convey emotions without the need for words. Each flower is symbolic of a particular emotion or state, for example:


  • Amaryllis = shy
  • Bluebell = gratitude
  • Red camellia = in love
  • Cherry blossom = kindness
  • White chrysanthemum = truth
  • Daffodil = respect
  • Daisy = faith
  • Hydrangea = pride
  • White lily = purity
  • Orange lily = hatred
  • Sweet pea = farewell
  • Violet = honesty



A growing number of Japanese holidaymakers are even booking their trips abroad with flowers in mind. The city of Pretoria, in South Africa, is a particular beneficiary of this, with thousands of Japanese visitors descending each year to see the jacaranda trees in full bloom. Some visitors even write poetry about these vivid purple flowers, which carpet the pavements in indigo when they fall.

The number of Japanese visitors taking this trip has been growing year-on-year, and in peak season more than 80% of guests in some Pretoria hotels are Japanese. When asked their opinion of this, several Pretoria residents have commented that the Japanese visitors' love of these flowers has helped them to appreciate their own surroundings in a new way - and perhaps there is something for everybody to learn from that.