Chrysanthemums and Other Autumn Flowers in Japan


Many people might be too busy thinking of the beautiful leaves now that it’s autumn, but before that, let’s talk about Japan fall flowers.

japan fall flowers
Fujibakama, or boneset

Japan has a strong habit of dedicating entire days to flower-viewing, and while spring may be the most famous example, you only need to google Hokkaido’s lavender fields or the Ashikaga flower park to see that there are plenty more throughout the year. While you might not consider yourself the kind of person who would go flower-viewing, it’s actually more enjoyable than you may expect—often combined on bus tours with fruit-picking and food, or just offering a day in a simple appreciation of nature’s beauty (even if it is carefully constructed).

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The different fall flowers

Jindai Botanical Garden Chrysanthemum Festival
Photo by Tanaka Juuyoh used under CC

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. They are: hagi (bush clover), nadeshiko (dianthus), kikyou (Chinese bellflower), ominaeshi (valerian), fujibakama (boneset), kuzu (kudzu), and susuki (also known as obana—Japanese pampas grass). These days, however, you don’t really see festivals or exhibits for these plants, even though you can find them at many parks. Instead, when people think of Japan fall flowers, they think of higanbana (spider lily), cosmos, kochia, and chrysanthemums.

When and where to see them

If you’re staying in Tokyo there will be festivals throughout the season to see, some within the city and some requiring a little travel. Due to their more rural locations, some places are best reached using an organized tour, so keep buses in mind when planning. We’ve divided them into the months they bloom, so if you’re planning ahead you’ll know what to see!

Spider Lilies | October | Hidaka, Saitama

Photo by Tomo used under CC

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.

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

Cosmos | October | Tachikawa, Tokyo

Photo by Hideki used under CC

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 | October | Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki

autumn flowers japan
Photo by Reginald Pentinio used under CC

Kochia, a bush-like herb, is also a lovely sight when it turns a fiery red, and Miharashi Hill in Ibaraki Prefecture’s Hitachi Seaside Park, just about 2 hours away from Tokyo, is famous for being covered in them throughout October.

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Roses | October | Various Spots in Tokyo

Hibiya Park Roses
Photo by OiMax used under CC

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

Chrysanthemums | November | Various spots

Photo by coniferconifer used under CC

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.

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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.

Jindai Botanical Gardens Chrysanthemum Exhibit | Oct 26th – Nov 18th

Head to Jindai Botanical Gardens for the 58th Chrysanthemum Exhibition. The park is accessible from the Jindai Shokubutsu-koen-mae stop of the Keio Bus bound for Shindaiji. Board the bus from Tsutsujigaoka Station on the Keio Line.

 Jindai Botanical Gardens Chrysanthemum Show

Jindai Botanical Garden Chrysanthemum Festival
Dates:26th Oct–18th Nov, 2018
On the door: ¥500
On the door: ¥200
Over 65s:
On the door: ¥250

Takahata-fudoson Chrysanthemum Festival | Oct 27th – Nov 17th

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 5-minute walk from Takahatafudo Station on the Keio Line or Tama Monorail.

 Takahata Fudoson Kiku Matsuri

Chrysanthemums Tokyo
Dates:27th Oct–17th Nov, 2018

Meiji Shrine Chrysanthemum Exhibition | Oct 27th – Nov 23rd

Not a festival itself, but a great option during some of their other events, there will be a chrysanthemum exhibition from the main approach to the Shrine. It is a one-minute walk from Harajuku Station.

 Meiji Jingu Kikkaten

Dates:27th Oct–23rd Nov, 2018

Kameido Tenjin Chrysanthemum Festival | Oct 27th – Nov 23rd

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

 Kameido Tenjin Chrysanthemum Festival

Chrysanthemum Kameido Tenjin
Dates:27th Oct–23rd Nov, 2018

Shinjuku Gyoen Chrysanthemum Exhibition | Nov 1st – 15th

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.

 Chrysanthemum Exhibition

Dates:1st Nov–15th Nov, 2018
On the door: ¥200
On the door: ¥50

Tokyo Metropolitan Chrysanthemum Exhibition | Nov 1st – 23rd

Held in Hibiya Park, this event is a two-minute walk from Hibiya or Kasumigaseki Station. 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.

 Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition

Dates:1st Nov–23rd Nov, 2018

Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival | Nov 1st – 23rd

From 6am til dusk, at Yushima Tenmangu, this event is a two-minute walk from Yushima Station, which will have dolls with clothes made of chrysanthemums on display, in addition to over 2000 chrysanthemums.

 The 40th Yushima Tenjin Chrysanthemum Festival

Yushima Tenjin Shrine Chrysanthemum Festivals
Dates:1st Nov–23rd Nov, 2018

This post was originally published in Nov 2015, the last update was Sep 2018

Written by:
Filed under: Outdoors, Things to do
Tags: Autumn Flowers, Festivals, Flowers, Nature, Outdoors, Parks
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