Higanbana by the Lakeside: Japanese Spirit with Western Learning

With the changing of the seasons also comes with new seasonal plants around Lake Biwa. Below, JCMU English Language Instructor Sam Sorenson would like to introduce you to the higanbana, one of these beautiful seasonal flowers.


Summer has transitioned to autumn here in Shiga and with that comes one of my favorite seasonal flowers: the higanbana (彼岸花, or simply ヒガンバナ in Japanese).

Starting in about mid-September, these lovely flowers pop up all over the prefecture. Many them spring up right around the JCMU campus along Lake Biwa. Noticing a lovely sunset in progress one afternoon while working in my office, I decided it would be the perfect time to capture some photos of the flowers. I wanted to share a little bit of the seasonal beauty that surrounds JCMU with those who aren’t here in person to experience it.

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Higanbana flowers in bloom along the shore of Lake Biwa

After noticing all the higanbana for the first time last year after just beginning working full-time at JCMU, I did a little bit of research into this charming flower. I learned that the name “higanbana” directly references the flower’s connection with the summer-autumn transition with higan (彼岸) actually meaning “equinox” in Japanese.

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More higanbana blooming near a local cemetery

Another interesting thing I learned about the higanbana flower is that it’s poisonous, and ingesting it can cause anything from vomiting to death in rare cases. So they’re nice to look at, but be careful!

Additionally, the flowers are often found near cemeteries (such as the one just a short walk from JCMU). The connection with higanbana and cemeteries isn’t just a coincidence though. Actually, it seems that it’s been a sort of custom to spread the seeds of higanbana flowers near cemeteries because the flowers’ poisonous nature helps to ward of insects, rodents, and other pests.

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Stay safe, little guy – they’re poisonous!

It seemed like our little cat friend got the message, as he meandered away shortly after this picture was taken.

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