Utsuroi-giku (the white Chrysanthemum changing its color to purple) (移菊)

Utsuroi-giku refers to the variety of white chrysanthemum whose petals begin to be tinged with purple from their edges around late autumn.

As it is, the petals change their color simply because the tissues are damaged by, for example, frost; this is called 'frostbite' in gardening terms.

However, nobles in the Heian period loved the purple color so much that they sometimes dared to rate utsuroi-giku higher than the white chrysanthemum.

In China (the home of the chrysanthemum), it was praised as one of four valued plants for its noble atmosphere distinctive in the late autumn field and for its fresh fragrance, so Chinese people loved the chrysanthemum as the symbol of something valuable, such as 'the noble spirit keeping oneself away from injustice,' 'friendship unchanged even in one's dark days,' and 'the mountain hermit's miraculous medicine promising longevity.'

However, when the chrysanthemum came to Japan, it was deemed the symbol of ephemera, just like the cherry blossoms, which also came from China.

The court nobles in the Heian period praised the white chrysanthemum that was at a little time past its prime and tinged with a slight purple as having a quite delicate charm, so they described it as 'the flower that has two peaks in a year,' or 'the flower in beautiful bloom until just before winter.'

Purple was used in the color combinations for court attire, and in Yamashina school (a school of the dressing method of the formal attire in those days), for example, the attire's outside was medium purple and the liner was blue - or, the outside was purple and the liner was white.

"The Tale of Genji" also described utsuroi-giku as 'the color-changing chrysanthemum,' and the tale shows us that people at that time not only enjoyed looking at the chrysanthemum but also used it as kazashi (flowers worn in one's hair in a shrine ritual) and as a twig attached to a letter.

In addition to autumn, the chrysanthemum seems to have another peak season, because it becomes more beautiful on changing its color to purple (a poem by KI no Tsurayuki and selected in "Kokin Wakashu" [A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry])

The beauty of the chrysanthemum purple tempted the court nobles to dye their attire the same color, thereby keeping its life, so I wonder whoever said it was ephemeral (a poem by FUJIWARA no Noritada and selected in "Goshui Wakashu" [Later Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poetry])