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Tama the Cat and Spider Lilies: A Furoshiki That Captures the Spirit of Early Autumn in Japan

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I recently came across a charming series of twelve cotton furoshiki wrapping cloths that feature a curious, somewhat mischievous feline named Tama. Tama is a typical cat's name in Japan, but her name seems to be the only thing ordinary about Tama.

Tama can be seen in various scenic places, among various kinds of flowers. The scene on the furoshiki above, which is in my store here,  shows her at harvest time among the rice paddies. There are rows of vibrant red flowers planted between the paddies, and those are actually what caught my eye when I saw this for the first time, with apologies to Tama!

I started noticing them around Kyoto as it happens to be September as I write this.  I snapped a photo of some, that I've included below.

These spindly blooms are known as 'higanbana' in Japanese and usher in the arrival of autumn in Japan, taking their name from O-Higan, the week of reflection that coincides with the autumnal equinox. During this time, along with the spring equinox and Obon in the summer, the spirits of ancestors are honored according to Buddhist tradition, and families pay visits to graves.

Owing to this solemn association, these lovely flowers are admired but aren't given as gifts.

They're sometimes used as border plants in rice fields as depicted in the Tama' furoshiki, but I only learned the reason for this in the process of writing this post. It seems that the bulbs of this innocent looking blossom are poisonous, and farmers use these plants to help keep mice and moles at bay.  I don't know how effective they actually are in this regard, but as long as Tama's around, I imagine that the question's moot!

Keep an eye out for these fixtures of fall if you're in Japan in September. And if you'd like to see Tama's other adventures, use the keyword 'Tama' in my internal store search engine to display all of the scenes currently available from this lovely collection.  Tama seems to really get around, and she has an eye for scenic locales, too. 

These furoshiki work wonderfully as wrapping cloths for small items, but they really shine as display pieces, either as they are, or incorporated into quilting projects such as comforters, wall displays and cushions. Where's Tama? Everywhere, it seems!

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