Flowers have played a significant role in the art and culture of Japan throughout history. Did you know that Japanese society has flower festivals for various distinctive Japanese flowers during their blooming seasons? You can also find the favored flowers on kimono fabrics and other traditional Japanese crafts.
At The Bouqs Co., we love flowers and want you to find the right flowers for your recipient before you order flower delivery. Whether you know someone from Japan or you’re interested in learning about the country’s flowers, this article will teach you about the various species you can find there. After reading it, you’ll be able to pick out the best Japanese flowers using the symbolism of hanakotoba.
Native and Traditional Japanese Flowers and Their Hanakotoba
In Japan, flowers have their own language, known as hanakotoba, which translates literally to “flower words.” The practice of giving meaning to flowers came to Japan in the late 1800s but has been woven tightly into Japanese culture since then. Hanakotoba is used to convey various meanings in ikebana, the art of flower arranging, and kimono patterns.
Like people in many other countries, Japanese people consider the symbolism of different types of flowers (the hanakotoba) when decorating or gifting flowers to other people. The cultural meanings associated with Japanese flowers are distinctive due to the country’s history, traditions, and religion.
Keep reading to discover some of the most common, beautiful, and unusual blooms found in Japan along with their meaning in the flower language of hanakotoba.
Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom)
Sakura, also known as cherry blossoms, are the iconic light pink flowers that come to mind for most people when they think of Japanese scenery. The flowers only bloom for a brief time during spring, and their fleeting nature has associated them with the concept of impermanence. In hanakotoba, cherry blossoms signify “beauty of heart” and “accomplishment.”
In Japan, meteorologists provide cherry blossom forecasts so that people can plan hanami, the Japanese tradition of viewing sakura. Many places in Japan hold festivals during the few weeks that the blossoms are on display. Due to their ubiquity in Japanese culture, cherry blossoms have become known as Japan’s national flower.
Tsubaki (Japanese Camellia)
Tsubaki, or camellia in English, is a traditional Japanese flower that blooms on a vibrant green shrub in springtime. The large, showy flowers vary in color, growing in shades such as pink, yellow, white, or red. The hanakotoba changes depending on the flower’s hue. For example, a white camellia represents “waiting” while a yellow camellia symbolizes “longing.”
Japanese violets are tiny, purple flowers given the name sumire in Japanese for their visual similarity to an ink container (“sumi” means ink and “ire” is container). The small shrub grows in many Japanese gardens, where the flowers bloom in spring. The hanakotoba meanings for violets are “small love”, “small bliss”, and “sincerity.”
Momo is a delicate flower that blooms on peach trees in the spring. The blossom appears in multiple shades of pink, sometimes having different colors even on the same tree. In hanakotoba, momo signifies “fascinating personality.”
Sakurasou is known as the Japanese primrose. This dainty, purple flower blooms in spring and appears throughout the natural scenery in Japan. Its name is similar to sakura because the bloom resembles cherry blossoms, Japan’s most popular flowers. The flower symbolism for sakurasou is “long-lasting love” and “desire.”
Fuji is the Japanese name for wisteria, which is a light purple flower that hangs down from tree branches in clusters during spring. Fuji is a popular flower that you might find draped on trellises in gardens. The most common hanakotoba for wisteria is “welcome” or “kind.”
Though roses aren’t native Japanese flowers, they’re just as popular for expressing love and romance in Japan as they are in the rest of the world. You can also find these beautiful flowers growing in gardens throughout Japan.
Roses symbolize love in hanakotoba, but the meaning can change depending on the color and number of flowers in a bouquet. Red roses (akaibara) convey passion, but pink roses (momirobara) express happiness or trust. If you want to gift roses to someone you like, you might want to stick with a red rose instead of a yellow rose (kiiroibara), which signifies jealousy.
Asagao (Morning Glory)
Asagao, known as morning glory in English, is a trumpet-shaped Japanese flower that blooms in the summer. Since the flower only blossoms during cool mornings and the petals begin to wither by afternoon, the hanakotoba for this beautiful flower is “brief love.”
Hanashobu (Japanese Iris)
You can find Japanese irises blooming in late spring in summer, recognizable by their unique petals and sword-shaped leaves. These stunning flowers are typically light bluish-purple with a yellow stripe in the center of each petal. In the language of flowers, the purple iris signifies “good news” and “loyalty.”
Himawari are large yellow flowers that you might know as sunflowers in English, commonly seen in summertime growing in vast fields. They’re native to the Americas but came to Japan during the Edo period. Sunflowers have become so popular in Japan that they have their own festival, Himawari Matsuri. The hanakotoba for himawari is “admiration.”
Hasu, or lotus, is a flower native to India that has become closely tied to Japanese culture due to its connection with Buddhism. If you visit a traditional Japanese garden during summer, you’ll likely see the sacred lotus floating in the ponds there.
The symbolism of hasu is “pure-hearted” and “sacred.” Due to its brief blooming period, it also has the meaning of “estranged love.”
Hydrangea, or ajisai in Japanese, grows during the summer rainy season. The flower’s bright colors stand out against the bleak, cloudy weather, making them popular for floral displays in gardens throughout Japan.
The color of ajisai changes easily depending on the acidity of the soil, which has influenced its meaning in hanakotoba to be “fickle.” Another meaning is “family” because the blooms grow so closely together, representing a familial bond.
Lilies come in many varieties, and some of the most popular types are native to Japan. These beautiful Japanese flowers can have multi-colored blooms or petals of pure white. The white lily represents “purity” and “chastity” in hanakotoba, while the tiger lily symbolizes “wealth” and the orange lily conveys “hatred” or “revenge.”
Kinmokusei (Orange Osmanthus)
Kinmokusei are bright orange flowers in Japan that came from China in the Edo period. The shrub that the flower grows on produces a dark purple fruit and blooms in autumn. In hanakotoba, orange osmanthus flowers mean “truth” and “noble person.”
Native to China, the word for cosmos is written as “autumn sakura” in Chinese characters because the shape of the petals resembles the popular cherry blossom flowers in Japan. You can find the bright-colored cosmos peppering the fields of Japan in the fall. In flower language, cosmos carry the meaning of “maiden Japanese heart,” “love,” and “cleanliness.”
Majushage (Red Spider Lily)
The red spider lily is a strange, captivating flower native to Japan. It’s common to see their blooms near graveyards in autumn, which has earned them the connotation with death, the afterlife, and abandonment. Japanese people often use red spider lilies at funerals rather than as gifts.
When the petals bloom, the lily’s leaves die. By the time the leaves grow, the flower has already wilted. This unusual characteristic led to a myth of lovers cursed by the gods to never meet again, and the Japanese name majushage is the combination of these lovers’ names.
Like the sakura, the popular Japanese flower kiku unofficially represents the nation of Japan and appears on the imperial seal and the Japanese passport cover. The flower blooms in many colors, including red, yellow, white, and pink. The meaning in hanakotoba changes depending on the shade, but the general definition is “nobility” and “purity.”
Ume (Japanese Apricot or Plum Blossom)
Pale pink plum blossoms appear on the Japanese apricot tree in early spring, signifying the end of winter. The plum blossom is a fragrant, sweet-smelling flower that pre-dates the cherry blossom in Japan. The tree grows an edible fruit, the Japanese plum, which is a common food and ingredient in liquor. Ume means “elegance” and “faithfulness” in hanakotoba.
Embrace Japanese Culture With a Bouq Using the Traditional Beautiful Japanese Flowers
Japanese culture is rich with deep floral symbolism, making the island nation’s native blooms a meaningful addition to bouquets to use as gifts or decorations.
The Japanese iris can mean “good tidings,” making the purple flower a perfect present for a friend or loved one who deserves congratulations. With the meaning of “family” in hanakotoba, hydrangeas could be a bright, symbolic complement to a bouquet for a couple who has joined hands in marriage or is expecting a new addition to their family.
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for adding contextual significance to your gifts or arrangements of Japanese flowers. At The Bouqs Co., we offer farm-fresh flower delivery for special occasions, including many of the alluring blooms on this list. We also have posts to help you learn how to arrange flowers like a professional.Shop All