Pink Blues

I have a confession to make. My facebook feed is filled with beautiful and glorious photos of cherry blossoms. Quite early this year thanks to climate change. But quite honestly, I have never been a great fan of sakura. I know, I know. It’s practically a harenchi to say something like that.

My favorite blossoms are the plum blossoms that normally bloom in nigatsu in Kyoto. They have a slight fragrance that is simply wonderful. And their shape is more pleasing to me. In my own neighborhood here in Massachusetts, I’m surrounded by apple trees. They traditionally bloom around Mother’s Day and are lovely.

When I lived in Tokyo, I lived along one of the nicer greenways that featured a line of sakura. And, yes, they were pretty when they bloomed, but when they fell to the ground they were slippery in the rain and just looked ugly. Though there are many shades of pink, to me most sakura simply look washed out and unattractive.

Then there are all the yopparai on the trains as they return from partying beneath the blossoms.

And the sakura seem to herald the beginning of arerugi season.

Flowers I like:

Those are the ones that come to mind this morning!

  • sakura – 桜 – cherry blossoms
  • harenchi – 破廉恥 – a disgrace
  • nigatsu – 二月 February
  • yopparai – 酔っ払い – drunkard
  • arerugī – アレルギー allergy. This is a hard one to say!
  • kakitsubata – 杜若 – iris
  • jinchōge – 沈丁花 – winter daphne. They smell like SweetTarts!
  • ajisai – 紫陽花 – hydrangea. They are an in-your-face type of flower, but the colors….!
  • fuji – 藤 -wisteria. So elegant!


It’s that time of year when the nature and more lyrical writers amongst us come out in droves to wax poetically about the autumn season with all of its marvelous changes.


For me, it is about the kinmokusei. If I tell you what it is in English, it isn’t going to do much to explain it if you haven’t been to Japan and seen and smelled these blossoms yourself. I have a sensitive hana and I remember walking one autumn day and smelling the most wonderfully fragrant scent. I soon saw it was coming from the tiny yellow-orange blossoms on a tree I’d never paid particular notice to before.

I asked a friend. He rolled his me and said it was a curse to all men because when they smelled it they would be unable to sleep at night. I will just leave that for your sōzō to interpret. It is a wonderfully perfume-y scent, but very light and, to me, not overwhelming.

A popular brand

In fact, I liked it so much that I even liked it in the toire. It turns out that kinmokusei was a popular scent for air fresheners which were de rigueur for any toilet in a home and many public places as well. When I returned to America, I packed a few of them to take back with me so that I could remember and cherish the kinmokusei.

Dear reader, of course I eventually ran out of these air fresheners. And it is a sweet reminder of the thoughtfulness of my Japanese family that they once sent me a few more of them (probably thinking what a weirdo I was). Sadly, I was unable to find these air fresheners when I was back in Kyoto in 2016. There are trendier choices now. But I bet I am not the only old lady that misses them. Fingers crossed that the current Showa Boom brings back the kinmokusei air fresheners!

  • kinmokusei – 金木犀 osmanthus flower
  • hana – 鼻 nose. With a different character, it also means flower. Ponder that.
  • me – 目 eye or eyes
  • sōzō – 想像 imagination
  • toire – トイレ this is a general word for toilet. Men might use benjo 便所 (literally ‘convenient place’) instead and women could delicately use otearai お手洗い (literally ‘to wash hands’).