Safflower (benibana) and RED


Safflower (benibana)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Mid-Summer
***** Category: Plant


Safflower, beni no hana 紅の花、紅花, 紅藍花, 紅粉花
..... suetsumu hana 末摘花
saffron flower, サフラワー
Carthamus tinctorius, benihana, benibana

This flower originates in South and West Asia and was introduced by Korean Buddhist monks to Japan in the 6th and 7th century. Lately it is often grown for its oil. The most importand growing area is the Yamagata prefecture, where the "Safflower Festival" (benibana matsuri 山形紅花まつり) is held every year in July.

It flowers in June and July, almost looking like a thistle (azami).
Formerly, the red extract from the flower was used for cosmetics and dyeing. The name is already mentioned in the "Tales of Genji".




is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual, usually with many long sharp spines on the leaves. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads (capitula) and commonly, brilliant yellow, orange or red flowers which bloom in July. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower has a strong taproot which enables it to thrive in dry climates, but the plant is very susceptible to frost injury from stem elongation to maturity.

Traditionally, the crop was grown for its flowers, used for colouring and flavouring foods and making red and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline dyes became available, and in medicines. For the last fifty years or so, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the vegetable oil extracted from its seeds.

Safflower oil is flavorless and colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It is used mainly as a cooking oil, in salad dressing, and for the production of margarine. It may also be taken as a nutritional supplement. INCI nomenclature is Carthamus tinctorius

There are two types of safflower that produce different kinds of oil: one high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) and the other high in polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic acid). Currently the predominant oil market is for the former, which is lower in saturates and higher in monounsaturates than olive oil, for example.

© wikipedia.org


Look at more flowes here !


There is even a Japanese doll with cloth safflowers :



A Film about this flower
"Only Yesterday" おもひでぽろぽろ, a Studio Ghibli production created by both Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki


The color RED in Japanese Culture

The color red is first mentioned in Chinese chronicles, when Princess Himiko send woven robes at presents to the court.

kooseiken 絳青縑(こうせいけん) "red and green robes"

The red color KOO 絳 was produced dying with akane red.

shutan 朱丹 mix of crimson and red

taisha たいしゃ色, 代赭 #bb5520
soho 赭 an old name for red
masoho, masuo, masoo 真赭 red earth (with mercury sulfide)
shado しゃど【赭土】red ocher (ocre), terra rosa

Painting the body with red earth (akatsuchi 赤土 / 赭土) would protect the person from misfortune.

entan 鉛丹色 (えんたんいろ) #ec6d51 . mixture with lead, trilead tetraoxide

Reference : Japanese color table with # numbers


kurenai くれない【紅】 crimson red, deep red
kure no ai 呉の藍 turned kurenai (meaning indigo from ancient China)
shinku 真紅 / 深紅 deep scarlet
Carthamus tinctorius

nisekurenai 偽紅 "false kurenai" died with
akane あかね【茜】 (Rubia akane Nakai) instead of safflower

kara kurenai からくれない 唐紅/ 韓紅 "crimson from China"
a rather dark crimson

beni no ame 紅の雨 "crimson rain" rain on beautiful blossoms
beni no namida 紅の涙 "crimson tears" bloody tears
these two words are not often used in haiku.

Beni lipstick made in the cold
(kanbeni 寒紅, ushibeni 丑紅)

enji えんじ【臙脂】dark red

hanezu iro はねずいろ唐棣花色/ 唐棣色(はねずいろ)light pink

suou iro 蘇芳色(すおういろ)"sappan wood red"

toki iro 鴇色 ときいろ / 朱鷺色 pink

. akane 茜草 (あかね) madder, Indian Madder
lit. "red root"
The plant was introduced from China in the Heian period.
It was very popular and there are poems in the Manyo-Shu poetry collection about
akane sasu 茜さす shining madder red
and refers to the daytime sunshine.


. Aoni Yoshi 青丹よし Aoniyoshi
"the green and cinnabar is good"

. Niutsuhime 丹生都比女
She is related to cinnabar (shu 朱) and then mercury.
Tanden 丹田 the Cinnabar field

. Bengara ベンガラ red pigment
from Fukiya town 吹屋, Okayama

. Smallpox and the color Red   

. Why is Daruma always RED ?

. The Red Fuji, Akafuji, 赤冨士  

. red dragonfly, aka tonbo 赤蜻蛉

. Red autumn leaves 紅葉 momiji


Auspicious food

. Red Beans, "small beans" (azuki 小豆 )  

. sekihan 赤飯(せきはん) "red rice"  
cooked for celebrations

hi no maru 日の丸 Japanese flag

. Japanese Flag Bentoo (hi no maru bentoo 

. Koohaku 紅白 red and white, an auspicious combination  

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

safflower oil, benibana abura 紅花油
salad oil, べにばなサラダ油


The Benibana Museum (The Safflower Museum)
From the Horigome Residence of a Wealthy Farmer to the Museum

This Benibana Museum was once the residence of Shirobe Horigome (堀米四郎兵衛) - a wealthy farmer around this area in Edo period. The total of the farm land was about 80 ares of the land and the residence had 6 warehouses and 7 wood-made warehouses. But, up to now, the most of the warehouses and the dwellings were withdrawn because of their advanced ages. But even now about five thousands of stuffs of the weapons and life necessities and old documents were preserved.
In 1982 after the Town was donated these historic stuffs and properties, they restored and consolidated them in a good order. The Town opened them as "the Benibana Museum" in May, 1984.

source : benibana/bunken


source : www.po-holdings.co.jp
cosmetic tools for the aristocracy of the Edo period

mayuhaki o omokage ni shite beni no hana

of eyebrow brushes –
safflower blossoms

Tr. Haldane

Oku no Hosomichi, Obanazawa
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. hake 刷毛 craftsmen's brush, brushes .

Related words

***** Annemone, Benibana Okinagusa 紅花翁草

. kigo : LIPSTICK from Benibana
kanbeni 寒紅 かんべに "crimson lipstick made in the cold"
ushibeni 丑紅(うしべに) "bull lipstick"




1 comment:

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

yuuyake ya karakurenai no hatsugoori

sunset --
the winter's first ice
bright crimson

This hokku is from the beginning of the eleventh lunar month (the middle of December) of 1819, the year evoked in Year of My Life. At this time Issa is traveling around visiting several students near his hometown, and water has frozen over for the first time this winter. The color kara-kurenai is a fairly bright and slightly pinkish, rosy crimson that came from the East Asian continent (Kara, that is, China and Korea), where it was very popular. "Continental" actually means stylish or fancy, so "fancy crimson" might be a good literal translation. Here it gives icing-over villages a few minutes of otherworldly beauty to remember.

The link below shows samples of many traditional Japanese colors, including kara-kurenai, which this site calls "foreign crimson" (#e95464). If you scroll about a third of the way down, it's in the left column, just above the deeper reds and scarlets:


Chris Drake