Flowers and what they mean in Japan

Flowers and what they mean in Japan

Hanakotoba – the language of flowers

Flowers are, to the Japanese, just as powerful a way of communication as it is all over the world. We all know how dear the sakura to the Japanese citizens’ hearts is. Flowers are magical in a way because they invoke powerful emotions and a single flower can, in meaning, convey a deep message that touches the heart. In Japan, flowers are gifts for men and women.

In the Western world Victorian Era, flowers were used as a means of communication. Each flower had its own, particular meaning and sending bouquets to someone was often a coded message. Today we all still send flowers chosen specifically for their flower meanings, mostly to people we love and cherish. In Japan, they call this practice Hanakotoba. Hanakotoba is the Japanese language of flowers. Hanakotoba is a fading practice but we still see it used in anime from time to time.

Here is a list of flowers and their meaning in Japan. First the English word, then the Japanese word, and then the meaning. You might recognize some of the Japanese words as they are sometimes used as names for characters.

Amaryllis ‘amaririsu’ – Shy
Anemone (white) ‘Anemone’ – Sincere
Bluebell ‘buruberu’ – Gratitude
Cactus Flower ‘saboten no hana’ – Lust
Camellia (red) ‘tsubaki’ – In Love
Camellia (yellow) ‘tsubaki’ – Longing
Camellia (white) ‘tsubaki’ – Waiting
Carnation ‘kaneshon’ – Passion
Cherry Blossom ‘sakura’ – Kind/Gentle
Chrysanthemum (yellow) ‘kigiku’ – Imperial/Elegant
Chrysanthemum (white) ‘shiragiku’ – Truth/Self-Esteem
Daffodil ‘suisen’ – Respect
Dahlia ‘tenjikubotan’ – Good Taste
Daisy ‘hinagiku’ – Faith
Forget-Me-Not ‘wasurenagusa’ – True Love
Freesia ‘furijia’ – Immaculate
Gardenia ‘kuchinashi’ – Secret Love/Pure
Hydrangea ‘ajisai’ – Pride
Iris ‘ayame’ – Noble Heart/Good News
Lily (white) ‘shirayuri’ – Purity
Magnolia ‘magunoria’ – Natural/Love For Nature
Primrose ‘sakuraso’ – Desperate’
Rose (red) ‘akaibara’ – Love/In Love
Rose (white) ‘shiroibara’ – Innocence/Devotion
Rose (pink) ‘pinku no bara’ – Trust/Confidence
Rose (yellow) ‘kiiroibara’ – Noble
Sweet Pea ‘suitopi’ – Goodbye
Tulip (red) ‘akaichurippu’ – Eternal Love
Tulip (yellow) ‘kiiroichurippu’ – One-sided love

Flowers speak to us all and its meaning can be different in every culture and language. Bear in mind that the Japanese meanings may differ a bit from Western meanings.

The Japanese band Gazette wrote a beautiful song about Hanakotoba. Here is the song with English lyrics. Follow the link and have a listen:

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