Poetic Name (Mei)
Description / source poetry
‘Kaya’ is a general name for long grasses like cogon grass, sedge, and Japanese pampas grass. In autumn people cut Kaya to make thatched roofs, wind breaks, etc.
This is especially poignant for chanoyu as sōan tea pavilions are made with thatched roofs.
Soaring Sky of Fall
In early and mid-Autumn, the ceiling of the sky above us appears to soar higher up to the heavens than other times of year. Gazing up into the great, blue firmament sends our spirits soaring.
Boundless, blue imagination.
‘Shiranui’ refers to the flickering lights out on the surface of the ocean seen from the shore in early autumn. They were often seen around the start of the 8th month of the lunar calendar especially on the Yatsushiro Sea and Ariake Sea in Kyushu. The lights came from the light of ‘isaribi’ fishing lights (to lure fish) from fishing boats at the mudflats reflecting on the surface of the water in the cool autumn air. People weren’t aware of the cause of the phenomenon and called these lights the ‘Shiranui’ (Mystery Flame).
Reference: 'Chanoyu Kisetsu no Kotoba' Tankosha Publishing
Shimmering autumn air
On a fine day in autumn, the air is fresh but golden sunlight warms the earth, creating diffraction above the surface of wild-grass. This shimmering air, quivering in delight from the warm heath
reaching up into the cool atmosphere, is called ‘aki-urara’.
Red Spider Lily
Red Spider Lilies or 'Higanbana' flower after the first good rain of Autumn. They are originally from China, Korea and Nepal, are were introduced to Japan and from there to the United States and elsewhere.
The bulbs of the Red Spider Lilly are very poisonous and are used in Japan to surround rice paddies and houses to keep pests and mice away. They can be seen wild and thick alongside rivers and fields at the start of autumn. A brilliant site. In Japan, the higanbana signals the arrival of autumn.
Higanbana are associated with death and should never be given to people as a bouquet for this reason. Instead, they are used for funerary rites and planted on graves.
As the flowers grow near cemeteries around the autumnal equinox, they are considered as ominous flowers in Buddhist literature. They are described as flowers that grown in Hell and guide people to the next reincarnation.
The popular Japanese name higanbana (彼岸花) literally means the flower of higan, higan meaning 'the other' or 'that shore' of the Sanzu River, the river the
dead must cross on their way to the afterlife (浄土 jyōdo).
For me, I am terribly fond of these flowers, both for their light and dark associations, and the nostalgia surrounding the brilliant blooms. The first time I saw them was indeed after the first autumn rain. It was a fine day, the blue sky reaching up high. The thick, pale green and straw coloured grasses of the river bank near home were alight with these higanbana fire-balls. They looked like a hoard of warriors that had emerged from the underworld. Wiry, noble, lush, and with an ominous air of duty. With higanbana, Mother Nature takes a fiery sickle to summer and ignites the ageing ground. The Red Spiders make a vibrant parade among the wistfully swaying straw. They torch the cooling air, reaching up to soaring skies. The red flares tell us to prepare for the winter crossing and remember those who have already sailed to the 'other shore'.
Tsuki no kage
Tsuki no kage (directly translated means ‘the moons shadow’), refers to the light rays reflected by the moon. From the ‘Kokin wakashū’ collection of waka poems:
Morikuru tsuki no
Kokoro zukushi no
Aki ha kinikeri
Between the branches,
A moon shadow filters through
The soft silver glow
Lights a feeling in my heart:
The pensive Autumn is here
Usumomiji describes the maple leaves as they just start to take on their Autumn colour, when they are pale reflections of the brilliant colours to come.
Plop! a maple leaf -
Pale shades of autumn seep through
My block of tofu
Tofu ni ochite
With a single leaf to ground, the Autumn is known throughout the land
This mei evokes the image of seeing a large paulownia leaf fall to the ground and thus triggering a sense of the oncoming Autumn. The paulownia tree is the first tree to start letting go of its
leaves for the colder months. The phrase ‘Hitoha ochite tenka no aki o shiru’ 一葉落知天下秋 (With but a single leaf to ground, the Autumn is known throughout the land) tells us that in just a
single leaf the great truths of Gaia are contained. This phrase also has the meaning of foretelling decline (from into the winter months), and to make us acutely aware that from the smallest
signs we are able to foretell great things to manifest in the future. Reference: 'Chanoyu Kisetsu no Kotoba' Tankosha Publishing
Songs of Autumn
The sound of the breeze, rain and the rustle of leaves. The crickets in the evenings. This poetic name evokes the sounds that give one a sense of the deepening Autumn.
Aki no kure
(Aki = autumn, Kure = dusk.)
This mei is used when the unmistakable feel of autumn seeps into days’ end.
On a withered branch
A lonesome crow has settled
Lo! the autumn dusk
Kare eda ni
Tori no tomari keri
Aki no kure