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

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My Wild Garden Abloom With HARUJION (春紫苑), a Flower whose local nickname expresses my financial state!

Roadside HARUJION (MAy 12th 2014)

Roadside HARUJION (May 10th )

HARUJION in my old garden in Konda, Tsukuba

HARUJION in my old garden in Konda, Tsukuba

By Avi Landau
Some will say, no doubt, that I am either un-neighborly, irresponsible, uncivilized or just plain lazy ( and they`d probably be right on all counts!). Still, I do not, like many others in Japan, spend many hot and itchy hours on my hands and knees with trowel, clippers and watering can, carefully cultivating the aristocrats of the horticultural world (roses, peonies, rhododenrons etc.) in a meticulously manicured garden.

For the past few years, besides occasional trimmings, I have let my garden grow virtually wild, and have subsequently been rewarded with an ever changing, multi-layered carpet of wild flowers.

Harujion in my garden

Now, in mid-May, each time I leave my front door, or look out the window, I am greeted  by waist high clusters of pinkish-white, daisy-like flowers that sway with the breezes.

These are harujion ( 春紫苑), scientific name-  e. philadelphicus, a flower which first appeared on Japanese shores in the early 20th century after its seeds were somehow carried over from North America. Taking very well to this hospitable country, it quickly spread throughout all of Japan`s major islands.

Harujion in my garden- Tsukuba


When I showed some pictures ( posted along with this article) of these flowers to a friend, born and raised in the Tsukuba area, she smiled and quickly burst out saying- “Ah… BINBO-GUSA”, which directly translated means: POVERTY GRASS, or PAUPERS PLANT!

When I insisted that they were HARUJION, she said yes, that’s what they were, but that around here ( Ibaraki Prefecture, that is) they were called BINBO-GUSA because they grew in abandoned fields and just about any untended space.

Amusingly, she felt very bad when I told her that  what I had shown her was a picture of MY GARDEN.  With the unique concern  which Japanese have for other peoples feelings, she was worried that she had offended me by implying that I was indigent, when she said that it was pauper’s grass growing at my place!

I told her not to feel bad. I LIKED the flowers and enjoyed having them in my garden. I also added that it was appropriate that they grew around me because I WAS POOR, especially after the tolls taken the coronavirus shut-down (and going even further back to two consecutive disasters we were hit by: the big quake in 2011 and the tornado of 2012 -and all the lean years that have followed!

She recommended I weed out the e. philadelphicus, or else next year they would come back in even greater numbers. I told her that that was alright, and also added jokingly that next year I would probably be EVEN POORER, (especially if I keep spending so much time researching for and writing this blog)!

Keep an eye out for harujion ( BINBO-GUSA). As I mentioned before, it grows in just about any open space. You will see them, growing here and there along  every road or path through May.

To tell the truth, when growing in small patches they do give off an air of dishevelment. But in great concentrations, like those in my garden they look almost GRAND !

By the way, today as I was examining the HARUJION I noticed that nearer to the ground the bright red HEBI-ICHIGO .

I would also like to mention that there is a flower which resembles the HARUJION very closely. It is called HIMEJION. It usually blooms later in the year ( from June through August) and is white instead of pink. But since the blooming period does overlap, and the HARUJION do sometimes bloom appear very whitish in recent years, the best way to tell the difference is by breaking one off at the stem. The HARUJION stems are hollow, while the HIMEJION stems are not.

Paddy fields with young rice plants- full of love-lorn frogs ( Tsukuba in May)

And let me leave you with something else – a song I wrote years ago and recorded with my band – The Tengooz. At the beginning of the track you will hear some of the sounds of a Tsukuba spring.

It`s called Clear Skies and you listen to it for free here!