Why Nature Loves Hexagons: Snowflakes, Hexagonal Flowers Blooming in Hokkaido

Giant's Causeway, a sea coast where many hexagonal-shaped rocked are aligned

We grow old emotionally earlier than physically

Human aging starts from emotion. I heard it was common knowledge especially among psychiatrists. It’s not only about the loss of a grip on our emotions. With the aging of the forebrain, we will lose emotion-driven qualities such as willingness, self-motivation, creativity, etc. Consequently, we will avoid trying new things and just want to maintain the status quo. This kind of life in a rut will further reduce our brain function and age us more. Because of this strong negative spiral, many psychiatrists say human aging starts from emotion or the forebrain responsible for emotion.

In that sense, keeping this blog is very good for my anti-aging. In order to find topics for the blog, I always have to keep an eye open for all kinds of information. In most cases, the blog articles start from my little interest, but in order to finish them up at a certain level, I always do some additional research on each topic. For example, once I wrote an article about Japanese giant hornets. It’s one of my popular articles, and so, please read it when you have time, by the way. When doing research on bees and hornets, I learned something about the honeycomb structure. This kind of research always broadens my interest in another field like this. Today, let’s talk about why nature loves hexagons.

Why do bees and hornets build hexagons?

I know it’s the law of nature and many people know it, but I was unconvinced until recently, to be honest. The law is just simple. If we try to fill a plane surface with a single kind of polygons, there are three options: equilateral triangles, squares, and regular hexagons. Bees and hornets go with regular hexagons because regular hexagons are best in space-efficiency and second best in strength. This is the core point of the theory. What do you think? Does it sound convincing? As I wrote above, it didn’t to me because a simple question came up in my mind: “OK, but not a bother to bees and hornets?” In other words, work efficiency looked too bad to me.

Recently on a mathematics-related website, I just happened to find the answer to my above question. According to the website, the honeycomb structure looks complex because we humans pay attention to the number of corners. If you pay attention to the point of contact between the cells, you have a completely different view. In case of hexagonal cells, three lines extend from one contact point, while it amounts to six if it’s equilateral triangles. Now I’ve been fully convinced that regular hexagonal cells are better even in work efficiency.

Snowflakes were called “hexagonal flowers” in ancient times in Japan

This would be the rational reason why hexagons sometimes emerge in nature, such as hexagonal clouds on Saturn, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland (in the above image), the structure of snowflakes, etc. For your information, snowflakes are called “Rokka” in the old Japanese language, which literally means “hexagonal flower.” Ancient people, too, found the mystery of nature.

Rokkatei butter sandwich, No.1 gift in Japan

Speaking of “Rokka,” the name of the leading confectionary maker in Hokkaido “Rokkatei” comes from there. Their raisin-butter cream cookie is a gem that is very often ranked as the most popular gift in Japan. As I wrote it before, Rokkatei also runs some cafés, and there are two here in Asahikawa, where you can enjoy their cakes and drinks in a comfortable space equipped with Asahikawa wooden furniture. If you have not tried both their masterpiece sweets and our furniture yet, please definitely do in their café in order also to activate your forebrain and creativity with new experience.

Photo credit: Rokkatei Confectionery Co.Ltd


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.