TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Clusters of Long-Headed Poppies (papaver dubium) – NAGAMI HINAGESHI- Create Unfamiliar Roadside Landscapes This Year in Tsukuba

 

Long-headed poppies ( or blind eyes) were first recorded blooming in Japan back in 1961 in Setagaya Ward Tokyo.

Long-headed poppies ( or blind eyes) were first recorded blooming in Japan back in 1961 in Setagaya Ward Tokyo. This year they have sprung up in abundance along Tsukuba`s roads

By Avi Landau

The annual procession of bloomings and blossomings in Tsukuba (and the rest of Japan, as well) is reassuringly regular. And though in a particular year one species might bloom a few days or even a couple of earlier than average – you can pretty much set your electronic calendar by them. And of course, you it is possible to accurately predict what a particular spot will look like at a particular time of year.

In some years, though, there are big surprises.

In Japanese they are called NAGAMI HINA GESHI (ながみひなげし)

In Japanese they are called NAGAMI HINA GESHI (ながみひなげし)

In late April 2016, along with the  azalea, iris, dandelions and other regular bloomers of the season, many of of Tsukuba roadsides had turned orange – with clusters of swaying flowers that were clearly some sort of poppy.

I immediately remembered how back in 2008, authorites destroyed thousands of poppies along the Kokai River near Tsukuba – because among them were the variety used to produce either heroin or opium – I can`t remember which. This year`s surprise poppies are definitely not of the illicit sort (a completely different color) – but rather a species that was first verified as existing in Japan back in 1961 -the NAGAMI HINAGESHI (long headed poppy – popover dubium)

They are found blooming along majotr thorough-fares in late April and May

They are found blooming along major thorough-fares in late April and May. These have taken root along Route 408 in Tsukuba on top of a pile of discarded rice husks.

It is not known how exactly the first seeds arrived in Japan (the species originates somewhere around the Mediterranian), but it has apparently spread around Japan by road and rail, with rain-wettened seeds sticking to cars, trucks and rail-cars.

The reason we can assume this is that these flowers are usually found first growing along roads and railroad track in a particular area before they start proliferating in nearby fields.

A roadside blind-eye (long-headed poppy) in Teshirogi, Tsukuba

A roadside blind-eye (long-headed poppy) in Teshirogi, Tsukuba. Apparently spread by car, truck and train, these flowers are first found in particualr areas growing along roads or train tracks because they make incursions into the neaby fields. They were first recorded growing in Japan in 1961, and by 2011 had spread to most of the country.

There are several ways that poppies (in general) can be referred to in Japanese. The easiest to remember is simply popii (ポピー). The non-narcotic type of poppy which is usually enjoyed in spring is the hinageshi (雛罌粟) – and many of them – vast carpets, in fact, will bloom along the Kokai River in late may and June. From Chinese literature there is the term gubijinsou (虞美人草), which is also the title of a novel by the novelist Natume Soseki.

The Japanese also use two words derived from European languages to refer to poppies: amapora (アマポーラ) from the Spanish and kokuriko (コクリコ) from the French.

The poetess Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) has left us this poem:
ああ皐月仏蘭西の野は火の色す君もコクリコわれもコクりこ。

Aa satsuki furansu no no wa hi no iro su
kimi mo kokuriko ware mo kokuriko

Aah! the fields of France in May, the color of fire!
Both you and I – POPPIES!

Just after posting this I went into Tokyo and took the street-car from Minowa to Waseda University - a pleasant ride - with the tracks adprned for most of the way with long-headed poppies

Just after posting this I went into Tokyo and took the street-car from Minowa to Waseda University – a pleasant ride – with the tracks adprned for most of the way with long-headed poppies

At the street-cars Waseda Terminal - can you spot the single NAGAMI HINA GESHI in the foreground

At the street-cars Waseda Terminal – can you spot the single NAGAMI HINA GESHI in the foreground



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