Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Carpe Diem #306, Chooyoo (Chrysanthemum Festival)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today another nice prompt for late autumn. As you all know ... the Chrysanthemum is THE flower of autumn and in Japan they have a so called Chrysanthemum Festival Chooyoo. Japan has a lot of festivals and every region has his own festivals. Chooyoo is just one out of many. As today this festival is our prompt I love to tell something more about this festival.

Chooyoo (Chrysanthemum Festival)

September 9, the ninth day of the ninth lunar month ... Now mostly held in October, celebrating the end of the harvest time.  Now October 26, 旧重陽 Old Lunar Chrysanthemum Festival.
It was one of the five special "double" days with double prime numbers, which are auspicious in the Lunar calendar, like January 1, March 3, May 5 and July 7.

Chrysanthemums were introduced into Japan around the 8th century AD, and Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽 (1180-1239) adopted this flower as his official seal.

Let's pluck and wear you,
O chrysanthemum flower,
while there's still dew --
that never-aging autumn
must then abide forever.

(c) Ki no Tomonori

Chrysanthemum and deeper meaning of a long life

The association of chrysanthemums with long life was imported from China along with their use in the longevity festival on the Ninth of the Ninth Month, which at the time fell some time in what's now October. According to Chinese folklore, drinking the dew off a chrysanthemum retarded aging or even, in some circumstances, granted immortality. Strictly speaking the wish is "for a (very) long time," but the effect (especially combined with "not aging") is close to "forever." A nice haiku written by Kobayashi Issa:

yamadera ya kate no uchi naru kiku no hana

mountain temple --
here, too, they serve
chrysanthemum petals

(Tr. Chris Drake) 

This hokku is from the 9th month (October) of 1819, the year Issa chronicles in Year of My Life. Every year on 9/9 the Chrysanthemum Festival was held, and in the 9th month various exhibits of chrysanthemums were held. Chrysanthemum petals had been drunk since the ancient Nara period, and in Issa's time the wine drunk at the 9/9 festival with petals in it was believed to ensure long life. Chrysanthemum petals were also widely used as a side dish or sprinkled on salads, sashimi, sushi, tempura, and other dishes. The petals were also used in several herbal medicine mixtures.

Issa seems to have visited a secluded mountain temple that, like many other temples, provides meals to visitors, and he is surprised to find chrysanthemum petals even here. Presumably the petals have been sprinkled on vegetarian dishes at the temple and are a treat during the 9th month for both monks and visitors.

So the Chrysanthemum has a nice history over centuries back. Must be a joy to write haiku about this festival (or the Chrysanthemum). I found two haiku by Buson about the Chrysanthemums:

kikunokaya tsukisumi shimono keburuyoni

Chrysanthemum fragrance--
On this night of a clear moon
And hazy frost.

kikuwa kini ame orosokani ochibakana

The chrysanthemums yellow
Rain scant--
Fallen leaves. 

As you all  know the Classical Japanese Culture had several great festivals, such as the 'Cherry Blossom Festival' and 'Tanabata', but they also had a big festival on September 9th. That festival was called 'Cho yo no Sekku', this means 'The Chrysanthemum Festival'. The Chrysanthemum is a season word for autumn. I think Chrysanthemums are wonderful season bound flowers in so much different colors and species and they are a wonderful theme for haiku.
And what do you think of this piece by Basho. I have used this haiku for one of my other weblogs in which I try to write haiku inspired on haiku by Basho (as we do with the Specials every month).

izayoi no   izure ka kesa ni   nakoru kiku

lingering moon
which is better this morning
early chrysanthemum

This haiku had a preface (very common): 'At Sodo's house. The chrysanthemums on the tenth. The elderly host of the lotus pond (Basho's host) loves chrysanthemums. Yesterday he held a party for the Chrysanthemum Festival just like that of Long Shan and today he offers the rice wine left over from our Renga party. I wonder who will stay in good health for next year's party!' 

This haiku was part of a Renga which Basho and his host Sodo composed. It's not sure if this was the 'hokku' opening haiku, but it could have been.
Chrysanthemums are beautiful. I personally love white chrysanthemums mixed with red roses. Maybe I will use that in my haiku.

in the backyard
gazing at the Milky Way -
white chrysanthemums

I have tried to write this one in more than Basho's Spirit I also have tried to bring a touch of Sodo in it. It surely is a touch of Chèvrefeuille.

And another "impromptu verse" written right now:

in the frontyard
colorful chrysanthemums exposed
for todays festival

Awesome ... This prompt will stay on till September 26th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will post our next episode, Kari (goose), later on today around 7.00 PM (CET). !! Chrysanthemum Festival is open for your submissions at 7.00 PM (CET) !!


  1. I have written a tanka for today's prompt. I hope that is OK to link! I love the mood you create in your milky way poem!

  2. This was so wonderful .. I had to go and read more about the double ninth to understand a little more. Your milky way haiku is just a masterpiece-... I really like these season-words

  3. Your Haiku made me wish I could write so beautifully too-the white chrysanthemums representing the milky way-wow-never could have thought of that!I tried to keep my eyes on the "Kigo" -hopefully it is not too bad :P

  4. I love all this fascinating info, kristjaan. What a great post!

  5. they are such a cheerful flower welcoming the autumn
    you do the flower justice in your haiku

  6. I can't believe I forgot to post my link. Sorry for the delay!