A Sip Of Matcha

Published: Monday July 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday July 21, 2014 MYT 10:54:01 AM

Blooming delights

Pretty sight: Azaleas in full bloom in spring.

Pretty sight: Azaleas in full bloom in spring.

Pretty pots of flowering plants can add so much colour to life.

We were driving past a street in Kawasaki two weeks ago, when vines on a wall near a bus stop captured my attention. Well, what was so attractive about those ordinary vines that I begged my husband to turn his car around? Artistically joined in a criss-cross pattern, the vines not only accentuated the wall, but were also eye-catching.

I got down from the car for a closer look. The leaves were real! I was amazed that some people took the trouble to shape the vines.

Further down the road, I spotted a high school where potted plants hung in a row on the fence, while flowers bloomed in the planter box below. A student was seen watering a plant in the planter box. Some planter boxes had tags which bore the name of the class tending to the plants.

Potted flowers also hung along the fence of a primary school in my district. So far, I have yet to hear of those potted plants being stolen.

This brings to mind two incidents that happened a few years back when I was on vacation in Malaysia. I was staying at my sister’s house in Penang then.

One day, while I was watering the plants in the porch, a stranger stood outside her front gate and asked: “Are the plants for sale?”

I shook my head.

“How pretty!” he remarked as I was watering a particular pot of flower. Then he left.

The following morning, that very pot went missing! My sister was infuriated. Since her gate was latched but not padlocked, that man could have sneaked in during the night and stolen the pot of plant.

Another plant theft struck next. My sister had wanted to dry some curry leaves (sweet neem leaves) for me to take back to Japan. She was shocked to discover that her big pot of curry plant had disappeared overnight.

Potted flowers adorning the surrounding wall of a house.
Potted flowers adorning the surrounding wall of a house.

When she went to buy some at the wet market near her house, she saw a vegetable stall with stems of curry leaves piling up high. Curious, she asked the seller where they came from. Someone had sold them to her, she said.

My sister probed further. The seller’s description of that person fitted my sister’s neighbour at the back. I was flabbergasted to hear that.

In Japan, some expensive plants are openly displayed. Many Japanese residences and premises lack space, so they make use of whatever space they have to grow plants. On the perimeter wall of some houses are garden shelves adorned with ornaments and potted flowers. I couldn’t help admiring them.

I once overheard a mother reprimanding her child for plucking a flower from a public flower bed. “Flowers have feelings. Hurting them is like hurting people’s feelings,” said the mother to her child.

A bizarre spate of vandalism hit several prefectures in 2008. City planners’ meticulously arranged beds of flowers and plants at public venues were vandalised despite security being beefed up.

The speculated motive behind these attacks? Stress relief! According to a newspaper report, only one man was arrested for uprooting a single tulip from a pavement flower bed. He was quoted as telling the police: “I was drunk. It was a bit of fun.”

Greenery and flowers brighten up the concrete jungle. Seasonal flowers deck the sidewalks. And to appreciate nature, Japan celebrates Greenery Day – a national holiday on May 4 whereby people throng parks and attend special flower show events.

Growing flowers helped to prevent crime in Suginami, Tokyo, as reported in The Daily Yomiuri in 2009. Suginami was targeted by burglars due to its deserted backstreets.

After conducting a survey on why certain residences were broken into, the municipal government launched its first campaign, Hana Sakase Tai (Flower Blooming Squad) and appealed for public participation by distributing free plants and seeds. Later, a bigger project, Furawa Sakusen (Flower Operation) was carried out.

The flowers drew people to the alleys, thus discouraging break-ins. The success of the project turned it into a model for other prefectures to follow.

That’s flower power!

Oh, how I wish I have green fingers!

  • Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, resides in Japan.

Tags / Keywords: plants, sarah mori

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