Friday, October 19, 2007

The Chrysanthemum

Frost! You may fall!
After chrysanthemums there are
no flowers at all!
That's a haiku called "The End of Autumn" by the 18th century poet Otomo Oemaru. It appeared in the New York Times this week as a part of an article on the New York Botanical Garden's exhibit "Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum," which opens soon.

There's something odd about such a short poem with so many exclamation points -- are we to read it as more urgent? Or as if it's being yelled at us? Something is certainly lost in the translation.

The name of the flower comes from the Greek: "krus anthemon" which means gold flower, but the flowers originate in China. And they come in many more colors than gold. It was brought to Japan from China (like much of Japan's culture).

In other, more brutal Japanese news, the Times has a fascinating article about the troubled sumo wrestling world, in which Mongolian champs fake injuries and fix fights, teen novices die in hazing rituals, and women, all considered "spiritually unclean," try to taint the sacred sumo ring.It makes one long for the days of Akebono Taro (pictured above), the 500 pound, 6-foot 8-inch Hawaiian who was the first foreigner to reach the level of Yokozuna, sumo wrestling's highest. Akebono, born Chad Haaheo Rowan, won the Emperor's Cup 11 times in 13 years. He retired in 2001.



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