• Masashi

Otaki san / お滝さん

Updated: Jun 24


【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.




●雨情の幸●


六月は梅雨のみならず、紫、薄い青、白のアジサイが綺麗な季節。


これまで、「うちの庭にもアジサイがあるよ」という多くの海外からのゲストにお会いした。彼らが一様に口にするのは、「アジサイ大好き!」

アジサイは日本原産の花で、英語名のHydrangeaは、ギリシャ語のHydr(水)とAngea(器)が由来。


曇天の雨音の中、静かに佇む姿。

寺社を彩る球の、息を飲む風情。

小さな蛙が花を跳ね回り、カタツムリは艶やかな葉の上を這う。

見慣れた光景の、アジサイと雨が織りなす美しさ。

「雨だけど」というよりむしろ「雨だからこそ」私たちの目を楽しませてくれるのだと思う。

●赤? それとも青?●


列島の下にある四つのプレートの影響で、火山大国の日本には酸性土が多い。そのため、日本のアジサイは青系色が多い。アルカリ性土壌には、赤系色の花が咲く。


アジサイは薄い緑から薄い青、やがては濃い青に色が変わるため、日本では「七変化」とも呼ばれる。



●学術名秘話●


今や世界中で愛されている花。過去にもアジサイに惹かれた外国人がいた。

アジサイは別名「オタクサ」と言い、ドイツ人植物学者フィリップ・フランツ・フォン・シーボルトによって名付けられた。


1823年、医師でもあった彼は、長崎の出島で楠本滝という若い日本人女性を診察した時、彼女に恋をし、やがて女の子を授かる。

1828年、日本での任期を終えたシーボルトであったが、彼はすぐに日本に戻り永住しようと考えていた。しかし、ある事件がきっかけで、その計画は頓挫してしまう。

出国の際、彼の荷物の中から当時極秘機密とされていた日本国地図が見つかり、国外永久追放処分となった。学校の歴史教科書に載っていた「シーボルト事件」。


オランダに滞在していたシーボルトは、日本から持ち帰った動植物の標本造りに励む。その際、アジサイの学術名の一部に入れた名前が、滝の呼び名「お滝さん(オタクサ)」。


1859年、晴れて罪を解かれた彼は、30年ぶりに愛する花、滝と娘に再会を果たす。

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