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Saturday, April 25, 2009

JAPAN LITE

Expand your options to enjoy budding boost of flower power


Now that the cherry blossom season is over, many of us sit under the bare cherry trees and ponder: What next? For two weeks of O-hanami we had a place to go, a place to meet and a party to indulge in. Life seems dull now without cherry blossom-viewing parties.

But my spirits were boosted when one of my students showed me a calendar that named a flower for every day of the year. This got me to thinking — why not have O-hanami for other flowers? Why should the party stop just because the cherry blossoms have finished blooming? There are plenty of other flowers that deserve a toast.

So here is my recipe for indulging in flower power for the rest of spring.

Consider, for example, having a Peony Party. Far from being of the status of peons, the peony is highly revered in Japan for its large blossom. Called boton in Japanese, gardens often boast single blossoms displayed with umbrellas over them. If you ask me, the boton blossom is so fantastic, it deserves a round of applause.

For a Peony Party, I suggest having private viewings with just a few of your closest friends. Be sure to share your rice wine and food while looking up to the peony.

Or how about having a Tulip Tete-a-tete? Tulips are a sign of spring and especially signal "back to school" for children in Japan. As every good foreigner knows, however, we are just as likely to tiptoe through the tulips at this time of year. The song by this name was first aired in the 1920s and resurrected by Tiny Tim in 1968.

Go ahead and tipple through the tulips on tiptoe, especially with your lover. But remember to be very quiet during your tippling tiptoeing tulip tete-a-tete.

Irises signify Children's Day. Although you'd think the iris would be a symbol of good eyesight, in Japan, the ayame color symbolizes blue blood, heraldry and royalty. There are many iris festivals around Japan where you can view the same flower a million times over, all in one glance. So get some kids together on Children's Day and make a day of it staring at irises.

Wisteria also have their own festivals in the springtime but fuji are just as easily found in parks looking rather wistful as they hang over trellises designed to support them. Wisteria prefer to be around people and their trellises make it easier to view their purple blossoms. There will surely be a bench nearby or underneath the trellis. Expect to share any flower viewing with the bees. They also love wisteria.

Roses are plentiful in Japan and always deserve a party, preferably with some Four Roses whiskey. Drinking with roses, however, is a thorny issue: One should never overindulge near roses. The good thing about bara in Japan is that they also turn red after they have a drink, so if you're alone, they can make good drinking buds.

Lastly, for an elaborate end of the spring O-hanami party, try a day out with the hydrangeas. There is nothing quite like sharing a glass of sake or beer with a hydrangea. Since they bloom during the rainy season, sit down with an umbrella and enjoy the silence that rain brings.

Take time to contemplate the snails out for their morning walks. Just be sure you have enough sake to go around when drinking among hydrangeas. One bush has a lot of heads to feed.

If that's still not enough partying for you, then I suggest you next hit the neighbor's veggie garden and share some potato shochu with the vegetables. I can't think of a better place to vegetate until the cauliflowers bloom.



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