Shobu, or sweet flag, floating in sento’s outdoor bath

Last night at the sento, I was surprised to see what looked like leeks floating in the outdoor bath. Turns out it was shobu (ショウブ), commonly called sweet flag or acorus calamus. This sword-like plant represents samurais’ bravery, and is a traditional decoration for Boys’ Day (Tango no Sekku, 端午の節句) on May 5. It’s also medicinal.

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