Otaki san / お滝さん

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

【日本語版は英語版のあとです】 ●Happiness in Rainy Blue●

In Japan, June is not only the season of the Tsuyu (rainy season), but also of the hydrangea. This plant is renowned for its beautiful purple, light blue, or white flowers (actually calyxes, or the outer parts of a flower).

I’ve met many guests from overseas who had hydrangea in their gardens and all of them said, “It’s my favorite”. It is native to Japan, and its scientific name derived from Greek (hydr = “water”, angea = “vase”).

The blooming hydrangeas, covered in raindrops, are a magnificent view.

Imagine hearing nothing but rain drops falling down and being surrounded by the pastel-colored hydrangeas on a gloomy day.

With old shrines and temples in the background, the ball-shaped flowers offer a breathtaking sight. A small frog jumping over flowers or a snail slowly moving along the green leaves is a typical Japanese image.

Rather than saying, “Even in the rain”, it’s better to say, “Because of the rain”, hydrangea makes us happier.

●Red or Blue?●

There are four tectonic plates below Japan’s archipelago, which are responsible for the large amount of volcanoes and for the highly acidic soil. The latter is the reason why Japanese hydrangeas are mostly blue. If the flower grows in alkaline soil, on the other hand, its color is pink.

The Japanese hydrangea will change color over time: the light green calyxes become light or dark blue. That is why some Japanese people call the flower “Shichihenge”, which literally means “changes seven times”.

●Hidden story of its scientific name●

Long time ago, there was one foreign person attracted by hydrangea before it becomes popular like today.

The alternative name of the hydrangea, “otakusa”, stems from a story about a German botanist, Philipp Franz von Siebold. In 1823, he was a doctor at a Dutch trading firm in Nagasaki. One day, the doctor had to examine Taki Kusumoto, a young Japanese lady, with whom he fell in love. They soon started living together and had a daughter.

However, in 1828 Siebold’s mission was finished, so he had to leave Japan. His plan was to return soon and gain permanent residency in Japan, but things went awry. Upon Siebold’s departure, a Japanese official found a top-secret map of Japan in his luggage. As a result, he was permanently banned from the country. That event became known as the “Siebold Incident”, which features in many Japanese high school history textbooks.

Once he had returned to the Netherlands, Siebold started organizing his collection of animals, plants, and flowers, which included the hydrangea. He registered the flower under its scientific name, but also added the alternative name “otakusa”, after Taki’s nickname “Otaki-san” (“Mrs. Taki”).

In 1859, his deportation was annulled, and he could visit Taki and his daughter after 30 years. He could finally see his “flower(s)” again.










●赤? それとも青?●











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