In Japan, the chrysanthemum is recognized as the national flower because it is the symbol of the Imperial Emblem of Japan. It is printed on the Japanese passport, in Japanese embassies abroad, Shinto shrines, diplomatic buildings and any other place where the state authority of His Majesty the Emperor must be demonstrated. The origin of this symbol dates back to the time of Emperor Go-Toba (1180 – 1239), His Majesty choosing the flower as his personal emblem.
Chrysanthemums first came to Japan from China in the 5th century. Chrysanthemum cultivation began in Japan during the Nara and Heian periods (710-1185) gaining popularity in the Edo period (1603-1868). In the Heian period, the flower was planted throughout Japan.
It represented the noble class and the fall season. The Japanese even have a festival in honor of the chrysanthemum. When the flower was adopted for the Imperial Seal of Japan, some clans also cultivated it to indicate their support and good relationship with the Imperial family. In the country more than 350 types of chrysanthemums are known of the 200,000 varieties, which are said to exist in the world.
Today, each fall, chrysanthemum displays are held at the Meiji Shrine and the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. This last temple is of great national importance, so much so that it adopted the chrysanthemum as its emblem.
Culinary-grade chrysanthemums are used to decorate food, and are still a common motif for traditional Japanese arts such as porcelain and kimono-making.
In Japan, the official chrysanthemum day is known as Chōyō which means “Chrysanthemum Festival” (Kiku no Sekku) and is one of the five sacred events in Japan. It is most commonly celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month according to the Gregorian calendar rather than the lunar calendar, that is, September 9.
It is performed in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The festival focuses on the desire for longevity in life and is enjoyed sipping chrysanthemum sake.
The chrysanthemum is an ornamental flower full of symbolism in many countries. In Asia it represents longevity, which is why it is also a ritual flower widely used in certain acts.
The color yellow, the color of chrysanthemums, symbolizes sunlight, warmth, and also represents joy, happiness, intelligence and energy.