Tsubaki refers to Camellia japonica, a flowering shrub native to Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. It is an evergreen plant that favors altitudes above 300 meters (980 feet) above sea level.
Tsubaki flowers between January and March, producing single red or white blossoms at the end of branches in the wild. In Japan it is pollinated mainly by mejiro.
During the Edo gardening boom, hundreds of new cultivars were developed and established. Today, there are over 2,000 named variations of Camellia japonica.
The flowers are prized for their beauty and the seeds may be pressed to extract tsubaki-abura (椿油), camellia oil, which was traditionally used to dress hair.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
The camellia tree is evergreen, possessing glossy green leaves. The combination of these leaves and the large distinctive flowers with snow as a late winter or early spring motif is both striking and popular. The characters making up the kanji for tsubaki are literally "tree" and "spring".
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Like sakura, camellia were once closely associated with samurai as their blossoms drop to the ground while still intact.
Common Motif Pairings
Identification & Style Variations
Naturally occurring camellia have five to nine petals, and blooms red or white. It is habitually depicted with its non-serrated leaves, which are about the size of a single petal. In stylized versions the petals meld into a single undulating ring. Both realistic and stylized depictions feature a tight crown of stamena with small beads on the top ends.
Houmongi with tsubaki from the collection of Peachchanvidel
Nagoya obi with stylized tsubaki from the collection of Tzippurah
Detail of tsubaki on komon from the collection of Saiya-chan
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
In Murasaki's Tale of Genji, camellias symbolize sudden "death" - dreams, illusions, or love affairs.
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- ↑ Wikipedia article on Camellia. Accessed March 30, 2016.
- ↑ Tsubaki on TheWorld Kigo Database]. Accessed March 30, 2016.
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)
Contributors: C. Law (claw789 (IG Username))