When people think of autumn in Japan, they tend to think of leaves bursting into red. But there is more to the season than just the trees undressing. In fact, there are a wonderful variety of autumn flowers to see.

Japan has a habit of dedicating entire days to flower excursions. Spring flower festivals may be the most famous example thanks to hanami (cherry blossom viewing). However, there are plenty of flower festivals throughout the year — just google Hokkaidō’s lavender fields or Ashikaga flower park and you’ll see what we mean.

Autumn, naturally, is no exception.

Pro tip: Speaking of beautiful red leaves, one of the best ways to see the fall colors is on a day trip from Tokyo.

Japan’s fall flowers

Traditionally, Japan has seven representative autumn flowers — collectively known as aki no nanakusa — which were often depicted in paintings and described in haiku and other literature.

These are:

  • bush clover (hagi)
  • dianthus (nadeshiko)
  • Chinese bellflower (kikyō)
  • valerian (ominaeshi)
  • boneset (fujibakama)
  • kudzu (kuzu)
  • Japanese pampas grass (susuki, also known as obana)

Apart from a few hagi festivals, these days you don’t really see many celebrations or exhibits for these plants, though you can find them at many parks.


Best Value Flights To Tokyo

Instead, when people think of Japan’s fall flowers, they tend to think of:

  • Red Spider Lily (higanbana)
  • Cosmos (akizakura)
  • Kochia (hōkigi)
  • Chrysanthemums (kiku)

Where to see them

There will be festivals throughout the season, some within Tokyo and some requiring a little travel. Some of the more rural locations are easiest to reach via an organized tour, so keep that in mind when planning. If you don’t feel like traveling far, how about heading to one of Tokyo’s luscious gardens. Most have a great selection of fall flowers.

Red Spider Lily

Photo by Chris Kirkland

Higanbana bloom close to the autumn equinox in late September, so when you see them blooming, you’ll know that autumn is near. These vibrant red flowers are a sight to behold, but they have an ominous meaning in flower language: they’re associated with loss and death, and it’s said that they bloom along the paths of people that you’ll never see again. They also happen to be common in cemeteries, and are thus said to be the flowers of the underworld.

When to see them: Mid-September to early October
Where to see them: Hidaka (Saitama Prefecture)

Kinchakuda Manjushage Park

If you want to see these hauntingly beautiful flowers, head over to Kinchakuda Manjushage Park in Hidaka, Saitama from mid-September to early October. The park is a 15-minute walk from Koma Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, which is about an hour away from Ikebukuro Station.

Cosmos

cosmos-flowers
Photo by Adriana Paradiso

When to see them: October
Where to see them: Tachikawa (Tokyo Prefecture)

Showa Memorial Park

As of this writing, we are in the midst of cosmos season and you’re sure to catch these pink blossoms, which are nicknamed akizakura (autumn cherry blossoms), at Showa Memorial Park until early November.

Kochia

Kochia
Photo by iStock.com/amnachphoto

Kochia are fluffy balls of fun from July to November, but they are mostly sought-after when they turn a brilliant shade of red in mid-October. In the past, people used to dry the plant and use it as a broom — but soon realized Kochia is far too pretty for that. They also produce nuts, which are a specialty in Akita Prefecture.

When to see them: Mid-October
Where to see them: Hitachi Seaside Park (Ibaraki Prefecture)

Hitachi Seaside Park

Miharashi Hill in Ibaraki Prefecture’s Hitachi Seaside Park, is famous for being covered in fiery red Kochia throughout October. The park is about about two hours away from Tokyo,

Autumn roses

roses at Furukawa Garden
Photo by iStock.com/ranmaru_

While it’s a common flower, if you like roses, you’ll be pleased to know that some parks and gardens in Tokyo — Kyū-Furukawa Teien in Komagome, Hibiya Park, and Jindai Botanical Gardens in Chōfu, among others — have autumn rose festivals for certain types that bloom in October.

When to see them: October
Where to see them: Various spots in Tokyo

Kyū-Furukawa Gardens

This flower show is a yearly highlight at Kyū-Furukawa Gardens. Not only will there be beautiful roses, but there will also be a concert, a scent tour, and a shop selling bloomin’ good items.

Chrysanthemums

Japan fall flower
Photo by iStock.com/Parichat Limsuvan

Next up are chrysanthemums — arguably the flower that gets associated with autumn the most. Even though it’s never been one of the aki no nanakusa, it’s been long-cherished in Japan, so it might as well be considered the representative flower for autumn.

Aside from the cherry blossom, the chrysanthemum (kiku in Japanese) is considered to be Japan’s national flower, since it is associated with the Imperial Family. Not only does it appear on the Imperial Seal of Japan, but the monarchy is also referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne. Many family crests have also featured this flower, which is a symbol of longevity. You can see it on the 50-yen coin, too.

Because of the chrysanthemum’s significance, there are several flower festivals dedicated to it, and here are a few of them. In most cases, they not only display the flowers, but they also sell seeds and young chrysanthemums that you can grow on your own.

When to see them: November
Where to see them: Various spots in Tokyo

Jindai Botanical Gardens

Head to Jindai Botanical Gardens for their yearly Chrysanthemum Exhibition. The park is accessible from the Jindai Shokubutsu-kōen-mae stop of the Keio Bus bound for Shindai-ji. Board the bus from Tsutsujigaoka Station on the Keio Line.

Takahata-fudoson

Held at Takahata-fudoson Kongo-ji, this is one of the Tama area’s biggest chrysanthemum festivals. There will be a plant sale, displays, judging of the competitive entries, and workshops, too. The temple is a five-minute walk from Takahatafudo Station on the Keio Line or Tama Monorail.

Kameido Tenjin

Well known for its wisteria festival in spring, Kemeido’s signature shrine also has chrysanthemums to enjoy in autumn. This festival is a 15-minute walk from Kameido Station.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Held annually since 1929, the Shinjuku Gyoen exhibition includes specially planted flowerbeds as well as temporary arrangements. The garden has been growing chrysanthemums since 1904 and although there’s a small fee to get in, it’s well worth it.

Hibiya Park

Held in Hibiya Park, this event is a two-minute walk from Hibiya or Kasumigaseki stations. It’s practically a tradition now, as it’s been held since 1914 and has displays of over 2,000 flowers. There will also be seedlings sold and seminars about growth techniques.

Yushima Tenmangū

From 6am til dusk, this event at Yushima Tenmangū will have dolls with clothes made of chrysanthemums on display, in addition to over 2,000 chrysanthemums. It’s a two-minute walk from Yushima Station.

This post was originally published in Nov 2015, and the last update was in August 2022.

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