Mar 2, 2016

Buying Funeral Flowers on White Day in Japan … More Than Once

Buying Funeral Flowers on White Day in Japan … More Than Once photo

The first time I (nearly) bought my partner funeral flowers on White Day was way back when I was fresh off the boat.  Back then, I was as green as grass and could barely tell a Saizeriya from a Gusto.  I knew enough to know that it was White Day in Japan though.  Rocking up to a small florist in a train station building I was silently giving myself a pat on the back for reaching top slot in the foreign-boyfriend-less-than-one-month-in-country category.

I knew nothing about flowers (still don’t, really) but I figured White Day = white flowers.  I picked out a nice looking bunch (of white flowers) and handed them over to the young lady stationing the cash register.  

She gave me a puzzled look.

Yes, I know.  I’m a great guy.  I’m buying flowers.  I’m not from these parts.  Now come on, let’s move this on.  I didn’t say.

She had a go in Japanese.

"葬式 (soushiki)。葬式 (soushiki)."

Nope, nothing.

"えーと、die … people die."

The penny dropped.  These were flowers for a funeral.  Needless to say I felt like a complete plonker but appreciated her sparing me the blushes that would have come a short while later.

Lesson learned.  Or not, as it turns out.  I must have a flower form of dyslexia.

The next time I bought my partner funeral flowers, I think it was when I was apologising for something.  I went to a local florist down the street that I’d never used before.  I’d also never seen any customers in there.  Out of wanting to support local business (and make up to my partner) I went down there, picked up some flowers that reminded me of a Cath Kidston design and was on my way.  The lady who served me said nothing.  My partner said that they were funeral flowers!  I haven’t been to that shop since.  Still, at least they captured the tone of the occasion.

The last time (touch wood) that I bought my partner funeral flowers was actually on White Day.  I remember it distinctly.  It was White Day. I arrived at my ‘home’ station after work.  I picked up a cake from Cozy Corner, and with Cozy Corner cake and box in hand, I went to a florist just outside the station.  I’d already tried all-white, and sort of colorful-indie Cath Kidston.  On this occasion I went with something that I thought was more classic in style.  

I got a muted thanks from the partner.  Funeral flowers again.  I felt a bit hard done to by the florist.  I mean, it was White Day, I’m a guy (so it’s my role to do something on White Day), I’m not Japanese (so maybe I don’t understand what funeral flowers here look like), and I was a carrying a cake.  Put all of that together and don’t you think I might have warranted a brief once over from someone who’s about to sell me a symbol of mourning?  On White Day!

Anyway, I’ve done the research now.  Chrysanthemums (菊/kiku) are the flower of choice for funerals in Japan.  Usually yellow or white, but other colors may be acceptable.  Oh, and other flowers too; lilies, bell-flowers(?), orchids … .  That doesn’t help really, does it?  If you need a reminder of what a chrysanthemum looks like it’s on the Japanese Imperial Family’s coat of arms.  So, err, yeah, I’ll assume you’re all familiar with that!!

With White Day in Japan coming soon, it’d be good to hear of any other romantic fails that may have happened in Japan.  Just so as they can be avoided by others you understand.

NB; So lacking am I in flower confidence, I can’t guarantee that the flowers in the picture are chrysanthemums, but that is what the net search turned out!

Photo Rich Mitchell Flickr (I added the text)



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.


  • KpQuePasa

    on Mar 2

    I'll have to share this with my husband for his reference! When we lived in Mexico, before he had learned enough Spanish, we were stopped in our car at a red light and were approached by a man selling flowers (super common). My husband waved the seller away saying "no, thank you." And as the light turned green, the seller shouted in Spanish to my husband; "Don't you love her (me)!?" And my hubs, not knowing what he had said, responded, "no, no. good bye." then we drove away. The look of pity that seller shot at me as we sped off into the sunset still cracks me up.

  • Tomuu

    on Mar 3

    @KpQuePasa That's hilarious!!! I spent a few months in Mexico. I didn't get asked to buy flowers (I was solo at the time) but I do remember these musical machine type things that were all over the streets of Mexico City. They were like these wind-up music box things. All over the place. Drove me crazy. Whereabouts were you in Mexico (if you don't mind me asking)?

  • KpQuePasa

    on Mar 3

    @Tomuu We were in Monterrey. It was an interesting experience.