Nanakusa, Japan’s Seven Herbs of Autumn

Nov 17, 2020


Some of you might already know what the seven herbs for Spring are (Haru no nanakusa – 春の七草). We eat these herbs together on the 7th of January to pray for our perfect health and safety throughout the year. 

What Are Nanakusa? The Seven Herbs of Autumn?

But there are another seven lesser-known herbs for Autumn (Aki no nanakusa 秋の七草), which even for Japanese people, many of us don’t know! It is said that Autumn herbs are not for eating, as the spring herbs are, but are for viewing and enjoying. Do you know any of the flowers below?

Bush Clover (Hagi – 萩)

Hagi’ means the flower of autumn, which is why it has the Kanji character for ‘秋 – autumn.’ The sweet Ohagi is a sweet rice ball made from glutinous rice (known as mochi) coated with sweetened red beans. It is named after this autumn blooming flower because we give it to our ancestors when we visit their grave in autumn. (A bit confusing because Ohagi rice balls are not actually made from the ‘Hagi’ flower). The Hagi shrub has beautiful red-purple flowers on it. You can find this herb in many hills and fields all over Japan. Its flowering season is summer through autumn.

Hagi – The Flower of Autumn

Flower language: thoughtful, shy, spirit, positive love, flexible mind

Ohagi (a rice ball coated with sweetened red beans)

Japanese Pampas Grass (Obana/Susuki – 尾花/薄)

This herb is quite famous in Japan since it is used as a decoration during Moon viewings. The Japanese name is ‘Obana’ and ‘Susuki.’ The name ‘Obana’ means tail flower because it looks like a tail. But, we normally call it ‘Susuki,’ which means ‘Sukusuku’ – quickly growing. It is a perennial plant and strong in the heat and cold, but it flowers in autumn. You can easily find it on the sunny side of any grassland.

Flower language: to understand someone’s feeling, viability, force, privacy

Kudzu (Kuzu – 葛)

The name of ‘Kuzu’ came from the English name, ‘Kudzu.’ ‘Kuzu’ has various uses, such as food and medicine. Starch is taken from the root and undergoes a process to be transformed into Kuzu starch, ‘Kuzuko –くず粉’ in Japanese. This is used for Japanese sweets (Wagashi和菓子)  called Kuzu mochi. When the root is dried, it becomes one of the traditional Chinese medicines used for the common cold and gastroenteritis. Moreover, baskets and fabrics can be made from dried ‘Kuzu.’ Usually, it flowers in early autumn. The vines grow so fast it sometimes spreads over trees nearby. 

Flower language: treatment, patience, endeavor, a sigh of love

Japanese Dianthus (Nadeshiko – 撫子)

Have you heard of ‘Yamato Nadeshiko – 大和撫子’ meaning the ‘epitome of Japanese beauty and gracefulness’? This word came from the name of Japanese Dianthus, ‘Nadeshiko.’ ‘Nadeshiko’ means to stroke (Naderu) a child (Ko) since this flower is cute, like a child. The beauty of ‘Nadeshiko’ tops all other flowering plants in Manyoshu – 万葉集, one of the Japanese old poetries. It blooms in summer to early autumn, and the color is a beautiful pink. It is easy to find anywhere, but mostly in a sunny location. 

Flower language: pure love, innocent, chastity, talent, fearless

Patrinia Scabiosifolia (Ominaeshi – 女郎花)

There are quite a few stories about the origin of the name of this plant. One tells the story where it is so beautiful, it eclipses the beauty of women. The root and whole plant is effectively used in detoxication and pain relief in Chinese medicines. The good season for this yellow beautiful flower is from summer to autumn, but the smell of the flower is awful, unfortunately… as bad as decayed soy sauce!

Flower language: beauty, kind, fleeting love, consideration, to keep a promise

Eupatorium Fortunei (Fujibakama – 藤袴)

This flower is designated as an endangered species, which means you can rarely find any in the wild. ‘Fujibakama’ means men’s old Hakama skirts in a wisteria violet (Fuji color). When dried, it has a strong sweet smell. Therefore, it is used for shampoo and perfume. That is why another name for this flower is ‘perfume flower’ (Kosuiran香水蘭). It is a perennial herb, and the flower season is autumn.

Flower language: delay, hesitancy, understanding, to remember you, sweet memory

Balloon Flower (Kikyo – 桔梗)

This flower is also an endangered species. Its flower is used as a military commander’s family crest model since the shape is stunning. The English name is ‘Balloon Flower’ because it looks like a balloon. The dried roots have a good effect on the respiratory system and alleviate coughing, so it is used in Chinese medicine. It grows in the mountains or fields which have enough sunlight. It only blooms in summer.

Flower language: tidy, elegance, sincerity, submission, unchangeable love, affectionate love

Will You Look For Nanakusa, Japan’s Seven Autumnal Herbs?

Are there any flowers you are familiar with? Be sure to note these seven herbs of autumn and appreciate all of them before winter comes!!

The Guidable team hopes that you found this article a helpful piece of information! After all, all of our activities are aiming for a better life for foreigners in Japan! So, stay tuned and follow us!

Miku, Japan.

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