Oct 9, 2008

The seven grasses of autumn

Aki no ni
sakitaru hana o
yubi orite
kaki kazoureba
nana kusa no hana

hagi ga hana
obana kuzubana
nadeshiko no hana
mata fujibakama
asagao no hana.

Flowers blossoming in the autumn fields
when I count them on my fingers
they number seven.

the flowers of the bush clover,
pampas grass, and arrowroot
dianthus, patrina,
also mistflower and morning glory.

In Japan, autumn is a time of mountains turning to magnificent crimson brocade, tapestries and cities glowing in wonderful autumn tints as the days grow cooler. From the earliest days, autumn has been extolled in Japanese poetry, painting, and design as well as enjoyed through foods that are available only in this season.

The seven grasses of autumn were often mentioned in the many verses of the Man’yoshu, the first collection of Japanese poetry and song. The images of autumn grasses presented in the Kokinshu, the first Imperial anthology of poetry compiled in 905, illustrates life in the Heian times in a way that could not be captured by painting. The subtle nuances of life and love at the time were illustrated with words alone, using nature and flowers to depict a clear picture of life in Hein Japan.

It is through the above poem by Yamanoue Okua, a court noble during 724-729, that the seven grasses of autumn have become well known.

from "An anthology of the seasonal feeling of chanoyu," by Michael A. Birch, Soei


  1. The Seven Grasses of Autumn is one of the beautiful designs available from the Japanese Embroidery Centre.

    What a delight to now know a little of their history.

    Thank you for the wonderful insights you give us.

  2. coral-seas,
    Thank you for your comment. The seven grasses of autumn are a popular motif in Japanese art. You can see them on lacquer ware, kimono, obi, painting, and yes, Japanese embroidery, too. It's a lovely design.

    Tale care,

  3. Akikusa (a.k.a. nanakusa) is my favourite traditional motif. It's lovely to read this poem about them. Thank you!

  4. chamekke,

    Thank you for your comment. There are the harukusa, or spring grasses as well. It is said that if you eat them in the sping then you will ward off sickness. I'll have to look up in my notes and post them in the spring.

    Take care,


  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.