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Magic City gets a kiku out of mums

Bob Morehead

Herald Staff Writer

Originally published Sept. 30, 2021

It’s been part of the PR from the beginning. Supposedly, one has to go to the imperial chrysanthemum gardens in Kyoto, Japan for a larger display than Barberton’s million-plus September bloom explosion.

Pressed for details, no one’s really sure if it’s still true, even if it was in the beginning. It certainly could be.

But why Japan?

As Japan absorbed elements of Chinese culture early in the Common Era, the chrysanthemum was one of those elements. It came with a legend that a town in China had residents who all lived to be more than 100 because they got their water from a mountain spring surrounded by mums. In Japanese culture, then, the flower came to symbolize life, longevity and prosperity. The imperial dynasty adopted the flower, called “kiku” in Japanese, as its official symbol. The dynasty itself came to be called “The Chrysanthemum Throne” and the royal palace in Kyoto boasts breathtaking mum gardens.

Of course, Barberton’s own spectacular mum display is only the most recent connection with Japan. In 1932, spearheaded by the Women’s Club, Barberton planted about 50 Japanese flowering cherry trees around Lake Anna. In the intervening decades, these have all gone away, replaced with heartier flowering crabapple trees. Nevertheless, the Barberton Cherry Blossom Festival persisted through 2019 (Crabapple Blossom Festival does not flow off the tongue).

For a time, Barberton had a sister city in Japan, a town in Osaka Prefecture called Settsu. That relationship dissolved some time ago but it highlights the strange connection, however unintentional, between the Land of the Rising Sun and the Magic City.


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