Manhole Monday: Nagasaki

I’ll close out the run of posts on Nagasaki with the city’s manhole cover. Nagasaki is known for a number of things – its trade ties, its mix of culinary styles, its sad history as a target of the second atomic bomb. And yet here is what the drain cover looks like:


That’s right. Hydrangea.

No, I didn’t  get it either.

But I did finally come across a possible connection. Apparently, the Japanese hydrangea was the favorite flower of a German physician named Philipp Franz von Seibold who was stationed at the Dutch trading post of Dejima. von Seibold met and married a Japanese woman with whom he had a daughter. But when the shogun saw fit to deport the doctor, he was forced to return to his native Europe without his family. He did, however, take specimens of the hydrangea with him (apparently, he was an avid botanist). He called the flower “otakusa”, after his beloved wife. The story does have a somewhat happy ending when the good doctor was finally reunited with his wife and daughter thirty years later on a return trip to Japan.

Every year in the early summer, 5000 hydrangea bloom in various parts of the city (Glover Garden and Dejima are two of the notable locations). These flowers allegedly symbolize the dramatic love between the doctor and his wife. Whether you buy into the romantic notion or not, it is a beautiful time to be in the city.

Hmmm, perhaps I need to go back and do a bit more research on the other flower-themed manhole covers I’ve come across. Maybe there’s more to them than I originally thought!

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