Iris Ayame (菖蒲)


The end of the Spring, flowers have changed from cherry blossoms and then azalea to iris. This flower has several types as Ayame(あやめ), Kakitsubata(かきつばた), and Hana-shobu(はなしょうぶ). All of them are very similar but the flowering time and the shape of leaf are subtly different.


  • Ayame : the beginning of May / the leaf is thin
  • Kakitsubata : the middle of May / the leaf is thick
  • Hana-shobu : from the middle of May to the end of June/the veins of the leaf is clear

Incidentally, Shobu which we put in the bath in May 5th (端午の節句Tango-no-sekku) is not the same plant as Hana-shobu.

Even we write Ayame or Shobu, the Chinese charactors are same like 菖蒲. However, for Kakitsubata, there are two types like “燕子花” and “杜若”. On the one hand, the famous painting made by Ogata Korin (尾形光琳), is titled “燕子花”, on the other hand for the No-play is titled “杜若”.


A long time ago, people used to dye cloth with the flower’s liquid so that it has been called Kakitsuke-hana(掻き付け花), and little by little the flower itself became called Kakitsubata. Both of the works, Korin’s painting and the No-play have the same origin in Tales of Ise (伊勢物語). In the chapter 9, the main character named Ariwara-no-Narihira (在原業平) leads for the East (東Azuma) from Kyoto, then when he arrives at Toyohashi, he stops off a place where is splendid view of iris being in bloom all over the field. Someone asks him to compose a poem with using five letters, “Ka-Ki-Tsu-Ba-Ta”. Narihira, who was famous poet in the capital made it:

Kakitsubata / Kitsutsunarenishi / Tsumashiareba / Harubarukinuru / Tabiwoshizoomou (きつばた/つつなれにし/ましあれば/るばるきぬる/びをしぞおもふ)

The meaning of this poem is

I have a beloved wife / familiar as the skirt / of a well-worn robe / and so this distant journeying/ fills my heart with grief



Thus, Japanese people are accustomed to expressing with unifying a changing of season with human feelings.

SOBA (蕎麦)


Japanese people love very much noodles like ramen, udon and soba. This time, I would like to tell you about soba. In the soba restaurant, it is normal to make noise when we eat it. Perhaps it makes you disagreeable. Even the most of Japanese people don’t know well why they slurp the noodles.


According to a Japanese chef of the famous soba restaurant, they started to slurp in order to taste more the soba’s flavor in their mouth. Soba noodles became popular since Edo period (in 17th century). Edo (the former name of Tokyo) had a population of about 1 million, so it was rather a big city at that time. There were many workers like carpenters or merchants, and they used to have meals in outside. Eating soba spread easily because they could eat fast, and also they had known soba was very nutritious food. It seems that there were about 700 soba restaurants in the late Edo period. Naturally, soba (buckwheat) is a kind of cereals so that it had been taken by most of ordinary people. The reason why they ate soba making noise that they didn’t care so much about manners. To enjoy tasting soba’s good flavor, you don’t have to care about making noise !


Reference :