Remember those pictures I posted of the red spider lilies? They grow on the edge of rice fields in the fall.
Well, I finally found out the Japanese name – higanbana (彼岸花) – aka Lycoris Radiata. Here is some information from the wikipedia entry on this flower:
The bulbs of Lycoris radiata are very poisonous. These are mostly used in Japan, to surround their paddies and houses to keep pests and mice away…. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall…. They plant them on graves because it shows a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers.
The entry has a lot more information on myths surrounding the higanbana, especially in its connection to funerals, partings, and the afterlife. I found it all really lovely and fascinating. Check it out!
ALSO, on a totally different topic: It seems like someone’s complaints about Japan really touched a nerve at the Japan Times! Today they have run 2 more columns detailing what people like about Japan and Japanese people. They are really excellent: the first, one guys opinion on why Japanese people are awesome, and the second, interviews with random gaijin in Tokyo on what they like about the Japanese.