I visited a small indoor lotus pond a few weeks ago and took some pictures.
This is what I (vaguely) remember studying at university in my Buddhism class before I had ever seen a lotus bloom or tasted a lotus root in real life:
Let's see, the lotus flower is an important symbol for Buddhists. It germinates in the muck, grows tall through muddy water, and then flowers above the surface. This represents a person's spirit on its way to enlightenment. The colors are also symbolic with white representing mental purity; red, the original nature of the heart; blue (purple), triumph over the spirit and wisdom; and pink being associated with the Buddha himself. Even the root, when cut in cross section, is thought to show the dharma wheel. Oh yea, and also, you see the lotus flower repeatedly in Buddhist art, from the flower that the Buddha's holding to the seat on which he sits. There really is a lot more but let's look at the pretty pictures.
Here's the pond itself. While we have a large outdoor one near our house, this one has a better variety of blooms.
And this is what I've learned since coming to Japan:
When you go to the grocery store you can buy lotus root all year round and it looks something like this:
It is a root and tastes like a root, but as far as that goes, not bad. I mean it isn't like burdock root which is just nasty. But you just have to be sure to slice it thin and cook it well. And chew and chew.
It's tasty in a salad:
I also learned--but have yet to witness--that when lotus flowers bloom they make a strange popping noise. And if you are near a pond when they all start to open one after another, it can be a little unsettling. I so want to see this but it happens like predawn or something.