Garlic chives (nira)


Garlic chives, Chinese chives (nira)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Plant


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chives, nira 韮 (にら), kamira かみら (加美良)、
mira みら (弥良)、"two letters" futamoji ふたもじ
Allium tuberosum, Garlic chives
kigo for mid-spring

often translated as LEEK, but that is a different plant.
In the Japanese saijiki, Garlic comes next after nira chives.

Allium tuberosum LINKS

The Japanese name of "futamoji" goes way back to the Heian period. The aristocracy wrote the name of the leek 葱 like this “ギ”(one letter). The more complex character for the chives, 韮 was then called "two letters".

KAMIRA 加美良(かみら) dates back to the historical chronicles of the Kojiki.
KUKUMIRA 久々美良(くくみら) is an old reading of the poetry collection Manyo-Shu.
The M from the older reading of MIRA later changed to an N.


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flowers of the chives, nira no hana
韮の花 (にらのはな)

ninniku no hana 蒜の花 (にんにくのはな) garlic flowers
kigo for late summer

nobiru no hana 野蒜の花 (のびるのはな) Nobiru flowers
kigo for early summer

There is also a kind of yellow garlic chives, 黄ニラ.
This is a speciality of Okayama prefecture.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Yellow garlic chives for the Momotaro pot Okayama


CLICK for original LINK ... himakichi sanpo

kunshuu sanmon hairu bekarazu
kunshuu sanmon ni iru o yurusazu

Garlic chives and liquor are not allowed
into the monastery.

 KUN refers to garlic chives and garlic.

These words are engraved in stone beside the entrance of a Buddhist monastery. This stone is also called kekkai seki 結界石(けっかいせき) "stone that separates the normal world from the Buddhist world".
Some temples called the hot ricewine
"hot water of wisdom" hannyatoo 「般若湯(はんにゃとう)」
or "water of wisdom" chie no mizu 「智慧の水」.

kunshu sanmon ni iru o yurusazu momiji kana

no garlic and wine
beyond the temple gate ...
red autumn leaves

Terada Torahiko 寺田寅彦 (November 28, 1878 - December 31, 1935)
source : jofuan/myhaiku

Daruma Museum
More about 葷酒山門 kunshu sanmon

Temple Gate, no garlic or liquor beyond this point!


Nira chives are a favorite ingredient in Chinese food. Here in Japan, it comes in miso soup, on scrambled eggs or in gyosa dumplings and many other preparations.

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japanesefood.about.com: Nira (chives)

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

"Chives Mountain", Nirayama 韮山, is a town in Izu peninsula.

During the Edo period, the famous reformer Egawa Tarozaemon
江川太郎左衛門 (1801-1855) lived here.

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A scholar of warfare and a civil administrator. As his family members had been for generations, Tarozaemon was the successive governor of Izunokuni Nirayama. Tarozaemon was familiar with the conditions of the people from the time he was appointed governor of Izunokuni Nirayama. He was an honest worker who listened to the views of the agricultural policy administrator and thinker, Sontoku Ninomiya, and was called “Edo’s God of Social Reform.”

After becoming conscious of naval defenses, he learned artillery from Kazan Watanabe and Western artillery from Shuhan Takashima and served as a professor of artillery. Tarozaemon got on the wrong side of Yozo Torii, the Edo Magistrate who disliked Western studies, and nearly fell from power in the bribery case of Bansha, but he was rescued by Tadakuni Mizuno, was later promoted by the top leaders of the shogunate government, and built six gun batteries. He devoted himself throughout his life to naval defense, building foundries and air furnaces in Nirayama and producing canons and guns. He is also known as Hidetatsu Egawa.

Torazaemon baked hardtack as ready-to-eat food for soldiers following the method taught by a student of Shuhan Takashima, and the Japan Bread Association called him the “Father of Bread” of Japan.
© 2006 MINATO CITY. Tarozaemon Egawa

His soldiers used a special kind of light helmet called the "Nirayama Helmets, nirayama gasa 韮山笠".

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They were like circles, folded in half, made from leather or twisted paper strings (koyori 紙縒り). The paper was then covered with laquer or sometimes light leather. Some troups of the Bakufu government, especially soldiers from Aizu, Nagaoka and Shonai, used these helmets.
They were not produced in large numbers and not many remain to our day.

 © PHOTO : www.wbr.co.jp

Japanese Reference


hisabisa no oyako no kaiwa nira no hana

I talk to my child
after quite a while ...
chive blossoms

Yamano Ibuki 山野いぶき
Tr. Gabi Greve


chive flowers
purple blossoms top
pungent stalks

Robert Hunt, 2009
Happy Haiku Forum

More NIRA haiku

Related words

***** Welch Onion Head (negi boozu)
Stone Leek (negi 葱), Welch Onion, Green Onion, Chinese Onion, Spring Onion

*** Ninniku ニンニク 大蒜 Garlic



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