10 27 2021

Hayato & Mika Nishiyama
from Mitate

Fujibakama, the perennial plant of the genus Hydrangea in the Asteraceae family, is one of the Seven Flowers of Autumn indigenous to Japan. The name is said to have derived from its wisteria-red ‘fuji’ color flowers and its hakama-like petals. In ancient times, it was classified as an orchid and was often mentioned in the Japanese Chronicles as well as in the Manyoshu and Kokinshu. In recent years, the plant has seen a decrease due to changes in the global environment and is designated as a quasi-endangered species.


Shoei-do, a company that manufactures and sells incense from herbaceous roots and bark, grows Fujibakama as a part of an effort to preserve rare plants outside of their habitat. Every September, they distribute 100 or so pots of Fujibakama to temples and various places around Kyoto, in which two of them were delivered to Mitate for us to enjoy at its fully bloomed state around this time of the year.


Its dried leaves give out a sweet cherry blossom cake-like aroma and are often used in Chinese medicine as a diuresis, to lower fever and increase blood circulation. When the flowers are in full bloom, the fragrance often attracts the migratory Asagimadara butterfly. ‘Asagi’ is a traditional name for the blue-green color of the butterfly’s wings. They have large wings similar to swallowtail butterflies, and many migrate from Japan to the Nansei Islands and Taiwan in the autumn time.


From time to time, we can enjoy the Asagimadara butterflies visiting our Fujibakama flowers, although they decided not to show up for me when I had my camera ready today. Instead, an Indian fritillary butterfly came for a visit, and although its beauty is not comparable to the Asagimadara butterflies, they were camera-friendly and stayed even when I approached them.


Time flew by as I studied the ecology of the flowers and observed the insects and butterflies, and moments like this are why I get distracted from getting work done.