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 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).
The different 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. 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
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
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
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.
Roses | October | Various Spots in Tokyo
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This post was originally published in Nov 2015, the last update was Sep 2018
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