Flowers talk

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. You might recognise some of the Japanese words as they are sometimes used as names for characters.

English JapaneseMeaning
Anemone (white)AnemoneSincere
Cactus Flowersaboten no hanaLust
Camellia (red)tsubakiIn Love
Cherry BlossomsakuraKind/Gentle
Chrysanthemum (yellow)kigikuImperial/Elegant
Chrysanthemum (white)shiragikuTruth/Self-Esteem`
DahliatenjikubotanGood Taste
Forget-Me-NotwasurenagusaTrue Love
GardeniakuchinashiSecret Love/Pure
IrisayameNoble Heart/Good News
Lily (white)shirayuriPurity
MagnoliamagunoriaNatural/Love For Nature
Rose (red)akaibaraLove/In Love
Rose (white)shiroibaraInnocence/Devotion
Rose (pink)pinku no baraTrust/Confidence`
Rose (yellow)kiiroibaraNoble
Sweet PeasuitopiGoodbye
Tulip (red)akaichurippuEternal Love
Tulip (yellow)kiiroichurippu

One-sided love

Flowers speak to us all and its meaning can be different in every culture and language. Japanese meanings of flowers may differ a bit from Western meanings!

The Japanese band Gazette wrote a beautiful song about Hanakotoba. Here is a video of the song with English lyrics.