The merciful drop in humidity is a welcome sign that after months of discomfort, summer is at last on the wane. However, a far more reliable indicator is the blossoming of red spider lilies. Higanbana to use one of its many Japanese names. Or simply the flower of death.
Poisonous to rodents and other wild animals, they were often planted in and around graveyards during Japan’s pre-cremation days to stop the dead being eaten. The beginning, perhaps, of their connection with death.
The name of the flower can also refer to ‘the other shore’; its bright colours said to guide souls into the afterlife. An aspect that presumably explains its use at funerals.
And if that wasn’t enough, another story is that red spider lilies bloom along the paths of departing lovers. Companions who for one reason or another are destined to never meet again.
Yet associations with death and departing lovers aside, the higanbana does undoubtedly represent the shift from summer to autumn. A welcome sight after too many long, desperately hot days. Although it’s not just the promise of cooler weather, but also its incredible beauty.