Shikimi skimmia

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Skimmia (shikimi)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Plant


is a genus of four species of evergreen shrubs and small trees in the Rue family, Rutaceae, all native to warm temperate regions of Asia. The leaves are clustered at the ends of the shoots, simple, lanceolate, 6-21 cm long and 2-5 cm broad, with a smooth margin. The flowers are in dense panicle clusters, each flower small, 6-15 mm diameter, with 4-7 petals.
The fruit is red to black, 6-12 mm diameter, a fleshy drupe containing a single seed. All parts of the plant have a pungent aroma when crushed.

The botanical name, Skimmia, is a Latinization of
shikimi (シキミ, 樒), which is the Japanese name for Illicium religiosum as well as an element in

miyama shikimi (ミヤマシキミ, 深山樒), the Japanese name for Skimmia japonica.

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kigo for late spring

shikimi no hana 樒の花 (しきみのはな) shikimi blossoms
..... shikisoo no hana 莽草の花(しきそうのはな)
..... kooshiba no hana こうしばの花(こうしばのはな)
..... koo no ki no hana こうの木の花(こうのきのはな)
hanashiba はなしば、hana no ki はなの木(はなのき)
hana shikimi 花樒(はなしきみ)
Skimmia japonica

It grows in mountain regions and blossoms in April. The blossoms are quite fragrant.
Its fruit in autumn is like a star. It is used in offerings for Buddhist and Shinto rituals.

In rural Japan, shikimi trees are planted next to the family graves in front of the home. They look fresh and green all the time and can be used for seasonal offerings.

Skimmia japonica
is a shrub that is popularly cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks. Its flower can be cream-yellow to white. The fruit is a small round berry that ranges in color from purple to red. It can tolerate frost and droughts. It has been hybridized with Skimmia anquetilia to create Skimmia × confusa. It is suitable for Bonsai.

This species is native to Japan. It is also grown in Chinese gardens. This species has many cultivar forms.
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kigo for all winter

miyama shikimi 深山樒 (みやましきみ) Skimmia Shikimi
lit. "Shikimi of the deep mountain"

. Plants - SAIJIKI .

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Illicium anisatum
commonly known as the Japanese star anise, is a tree similar to Chinese star anise. It is highly toxic, therefore it is not edible; instead, it has been burned as incense in Japan, where it is known as shikimi (樒). Cases of illness, including serious neurological effects such as seizures, reported after using star anise tea may be a result of using this species.

I. anisatum is native to Japan. It is similar to I. verum, but its fruit is smaller and with weaker odor, which is said to be more similar to cardamom than to anise. While it is poisonous and therefore unsuitable for using internally, it is used for treatment of some skin problems in traditional Chinese medicine.
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murasame ya haka no shikimi mo natsu kodachi

rain shower--
the grave's shikimi branches, too
are summer trees

Kobayashi Issa

Branches of the shikimi tree are placed on Buddhist graves. In my vision of this haiku, the rain is causing these branches to bud. Shinji Ogawa doubts that Issa intended the above reading of shikimi.
He writes that shikimi can mean "threshold" (usually pronounced shiki-i). He visualizes the haiku in the following way: "Viewing the grave as a house, Issa saw the summer tree as the threshold."
Tr. David Lanoue


ookami ni haka no shikimi no midasareshi

the wolves
have thoroughly destroyed
the shikimi around the grave

石井露月 Ishii Rogetsu (1873-1928)

. Wolf (ookami) .

Related words

***** . SAIJIKI - PLANTS .



Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

tera samuku shikimi hamikobosu nezumi kana

a cold temple
and the mice are gnawing
star anise . . . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

Visiting temples with Buson

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

yabuiri no saki ni tachi keri shikimi oke

leafy sprigs in buckets
stand by graves -- servants
coming home soon

This gentle hokku about family ties is from the 11th of the first month (Feb. 21) in 1804, when Issa was living in Shouchi-in, a Shingon school esoteric Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the city of Edo. It was not a temple of the True Pure Land school, to which Issa belonged, but the head priest at the temple was a member of the Katsushika school of haikai, which Issa also studied as a young man, so another poet in the Katsushika school probably introduced the two to each other.

The hokku is written five days before the traditional servants' day off on lunar 1/16 (another will occur on 7/16). Many employers, however, allowed their maids, apprentices, and clerks to leave for home late on the 15th, Small New Year's, the night of the year's first full moon and a traditional time for many shamanic festivals and customs to honor and pray for ancestors at their graves. The hokku evokes graves in a semi-rural area before the start of the servants' day off, and it seems to be about the loving preparations being carried out by the parents and relatives of servants who will soon be returning home. A great many of the servants working in Edo couldn't return home at this time since their homes were far from Edo, but servants who were born in the area around Edo usually went home and spent the nights of 1/15 and 1/16 and the day of 1/16 in their natal homes. Thus the parents are actually preparing to worship at their ancestors' graves twice: at Small New Year's on 1/15 and on the day servants return home on 1/16. Even today in Japan, people usually wash and prepare graves a day or two before the actual festivities or memorials for ancestors begin, and in Issa's time grave-cleaning and other purifications for the Bon Festival of Returning Souls began a week before the festival did. In this hokku the preparations are no doubt equally careful. The mere sight of washed gravestones implies a whole narrative of spiritual and material purification by the families who have made the preparations.

The temple in which Issa is staying is in Honjo. Located on the eastern edge of Edo, Honjo was a semi-rural area of farms and low-rent homes for fishers, artisans, and day laborers that gradually grew more populous as Edo as a whole grew to have a population of well over a million people. As a relatively poor area of Edo, it sent many of its young people to work in homes, workshops, and stores in the rich center of the city, and, as servants' day off approaches, parents in Honjo must be quite busy and feeling quite excited. Issa can surely see this because people have already begun to purify many of the graves in the graveyard of the temple in which he is staying -- and no doubt in graveyards of other Buddhist temples in the area. The leaves of the star anise tree have an incense-like fragrance, and their leaves are ground up to make incense sticks. Pure-smelling leafy sprigs are commonly placed in two small buckets or vases that stand just in front of each gravestone, one on each side of it, during several ritual times each year when the souls of ancestors are believed to return. Thus the parents of the returning servants are both inviting their ancestors back to the newly washed and purified graves and, at the same time, preparing each grave to be a meeting place for all the generations in the family. The returning servants make the meeting much more meaningful, since the whole or nearly the whole family is present.


Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Legends about shikimi -
The bird shijuukara 四十雀 Japanese tit (Parus minor) is 山の神の使い the messenger of Yamanokami.
If a hunter shoots it, the bird will fly up to heaven with a twig of Shikimi (hanashiba ハナシバ) in its beak.
On such a day the hunter should go home and pray.

to explore
樒 13
シキミ 06

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Yamaguchi

光市 Hikari city 熊毛郡島田村 Kumage district, Shimada village

In Shimada village there was the grave of a certain person where people put up shikimi 樒 ritual branches and a Sotoba 卒塔婆 grave marker, but both were thrown away the next morning.
The daughter had a dream about this: Her mother told her not the put these things on the grave because they made too much noise.
Next morning the daughter went to the grave again and said to endure the noise for the usual 49 days after a death.
Since then, all kept quiet around the grave.

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