One of Tokyo`s weeds

When I was 3-years-old, I used to follow my granddad around the garden pushing a plastic wheelbarrow.  We worked as a team.  He pulled out the weeds; I pulled out the flowers.

I still retain that 3 year-old knowledge of the difference between weeds and flowers.  Mind you, I doubt I`m the only one unsure.  Even the dictionary hedges its bets by suggesting the difference is a matter of preference.

Both the English word, weed and its most commonly translated form in Japanese,  (zasso) mean undesirable plant.  But while in English, the word weed also means weak or cowardly, the Japanese word, 雑草 zasso also has the meaning of strength, as in  –  雑草のようなしたたかさ - as hard as a weed.

Now, hands up if you found that interesting.  Go on, hands up high.

Thinking about it, the alternative Japanese definition makes more sense than the English one.  Weeds are not weak or cowardly;they are adventurous and tenacious.  And a nightmare to remove.

I was a wise 3-year-old to pull-out the flowers instead.

In recent weeks, peach-coloured petals have sprouted on pavement edges across the city.  Instantly I identified them as flowers, only to discover they are nagamihinageshilong-headed poppies (J), considered weeds introduced from overseas.


First identified in Tokyo in 1961, the peachy petals have rapidly spread across the country.  This long-headed poppy plague shows no sign stopping.  The fight against them (J) isn`t helped by fools like me who identify them as pretty flowers and plant them in their back garden.

But the long-heads are not all evil.  Attracted to the alkaline soil on pavement edges, these poppies lead the frontline in the fight against concrete.  Inch by inch, they are re-taking the streets.  Good on them, in a city as big as Tokyo, a long fight lies ahead.





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2 Responses to One of Tokyo`s weeds

  1. Rurousha says:

    My hands are up! Both of ’em! Does that mean I’m surrendering?

    We have an expression in Afrikaans, “onkruid vergaan nie”, “weeds don’t die”. It means that it’s difficult to get rid of bad stuff/people, but it’s often used in a half-mocking, half-humorous way to indicate that ordinary people – the hoi polloi – are tough cookies. I’m mixing my metaphors horribly, but never mind, you get my drift?

    PS: So that’s what these flowers are called! Fancy learning flower names from a bloke! 😀

    • tomointokyo says:

      Surrendering to poppies seems appropriate somehow. I have long surrendered to flowers. Unlike many trees in Tokyo, they are never labelled. I am clueless.

      I like the Afrikaan weed interpretation. It also seems better than the English one.

      I also like cookies too, not tough ones though, soft and chocolatey. By the packet. But now I am off track without a paddle.

      PS: Excellent use of the word bloke.

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