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. Traditionally, Japan has 7 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.
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.
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, 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 kochia red throughout October.
And 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.
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 crest, 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.
Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival – Nov. 1-23, 6:00 am til dusk, at Yushima Tenmangu, a 2-minute walk from Yushima Station, which will have dolls with clothes made of chrysanthemums on display, in addition to over 2000 chrysanthemums
Meiji Shrine Chrysanthemum Exhibition – Oct. 27-Nov. 23 at Meiji Shrine, a 1-minute walk from Harajuku Station
Kameido Tenjin Chrysanthemum Festival – Oct. 23-Nov. 20 at Kameido Tenjin, a 15-minute walk from Kameido Station, which will feature an orchestra as part of the celebration on the 23rd
]Tokyo Metropolitan Chrysanthemum Exhibition – Nov. 1-23 at Hibiya Park, a 2-minute walk from Hibiya or Kasumigaseki Station, which is practically a tradition now, as it’s been held since 1914
Takahata-fudoson Chrysanthemum Festival – Oct. 28-Nov. 17 at Takahata-fudoson Kongo-ji, a temple that’s a 5-minute walk from Takahatafudo Station on the Keio Line or Tama Monorail
Jindai Botanical Gardens Chrysanthemum Exhibit – Oct. 28-Nov. 20, 9:30 am-5:00 pm at Jindai Botanical Gardens, 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. Admission: 500 yen
This post was originally published in Nov 2015. Last update: Sep 2017.
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