VOX POPULI: Spring flowers reflect a spirit of resilience after a harsh winter

I often stop when I find blooming flowers along the road this time of year.

“Let me see, your name is….”

I often wonder if it’s “harujion” (Philadelphia fleabane) or “himejo-on” (annual fleabane).

The two members of the Asteraceae daisy family are like two peas in a pod.

While I try to tell them apart by looking at the difference in the width of the petals, I recently learned that you can also tell them apart by the buds.

Harujion has drooping buds, which turn upwards as they bloom.

Singer-songwriter Masashi Sada composed a song about Philadelphia fleabane, which he calls “Harujo-on”.

He assigns three kanji characters to the flower’s name to be used as phonetic symbols: “haru” (spring), “jo” (woman), and “on” (garden, park).

“Harujo-on looks like you / Looking confused in pale pink / Turned down and shaking.”

In a recent post in this column, I wrote, “Spring, I think, is a season that goes well with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.”

But people sometimes also experience disappointment in this season.

Like harujion buds, people fall in disappointment when they find it hard to get used to a new place and feel it doesn’t meet their expectations.

“You can trust harujo-on / As they never fail to put flowers.”

As Sada sings, we are sometimes encouraged by plants, with buds that endure a harsh winter and flowers that bloom even after being trampled on.

Botanist Hidehiro Inagaki’s book, “We Can Learn Important Things from Plants,” talks about weeds whose stems have joints.

It looks like a plant is taking a break from growing by producing a joint.

But weeds with joints are resilient, pulling buds from joints even if they’re torn or cut, according to Inagaki.

Perhaps people also become more resilient by “creating” joints when they suffer from problems and waver in judgment.

It is said that the himejo-on was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912) while the harujion was introduced during the Taisho era (1912-1926).

Even though they have come to a completely new world, the plants are now blooming, looking up, as if declaring that this is their place in the world.

–Asahi Shimbun, April 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers helpful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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