The dandelions have started popping up everywhere all of sudden this week. This photo above is of the Taraxacum officinale or Seiyo-tanpopo growing in a crack in the wall.
The origin of the Japanese name tanpopo comes from the word “tanpo” which is a wad of cotton wrapped in cloth or hide because the fluffy seeds look similar to the tanpo. A tanpo is attached to the end of a spear for practice and may also be used to with ink to make rubbings. Also if you turn the tanpo on its side it resembles a Taudzumi (a small shoulder drum), so Tan-po-po is often pronounced with a rhythmic feeling.
In English, the Dandelion is so named because its petals resemble the indention of a row of lion’s teeth.
Although there exist both the “Seiyo (Western) Tanpopo” and Japan native, “Kanto Tanpopo”, the more commonly seen version in the urban areas of Japan is the Seiyo Tanpopo which was brought to Japan during the Meiji Era. The Tanpopo is usually thought of as a “wild flower,” but the young leaves can be soaked in water for 10 minutes and eaten with salad.
In flower terms, the Tanpopo’s name means “Trust”, but there is also another name of “Separation: seeds flying away,” as the Tanpopo’s.
Japanese native dandelion or Kanto tanpopo
Source: Monthly by Fukuoka International Association.