The scorching hot and humid summer of Japan went by in a blink of an eye and who would have thought we’d be handing in the season of change with some rain clouds so soon! I’m sure some of you are already looking forward to the possible things that you can do to enjoy and experience the autumn season in Japan.
The season of autumn in Japan is one of the most magical experiences you can encounter and it will most surely be the case especially for those who are visiting the country during the peak of the season for the first time. Most often, the top image of autumn in Japan from the eyes of a tourist is the enchanting gradual change in the color of leaves. While this is an attractive call for attention, there are other beautiful aspects which can also be appreciated such as the seasonal flower, hagi (萩).
Hagi is one of the iconic seasonal flowers of Japan during the autumn season. It is also considered as one of the “Seven Flowers of Autumn” which are known as the Aki no Nanakusa (秋の七草) in Japanese. Hagi, also known as Japanese bush clovers, is a symbol for the opening of the new autumn season. Typically, hagi flowers start to bloom from July and its speed growth gradually increases in the first few weeks of September depending on the region.
Hagi is a large flower shrub that bears beautiful flowers during its peak. The hagi flower takes in the form of a pea and is astoundingly noteworthy for its beautiful vibrant purple color which is the largest species in Japan. But aside from that, hagis are also used as ornamental plants, as well as different motifs on artistic displays.
Just like any popular trend in Japan, different areas around the country also happen to celebrate the coming of autumn with numerous festivals and activities such as those involving the hagi, too. So whether you are going alone or with your friends or family, the hagi festivals in Tokyo and Kyoto will be sure to serve as a good memory for your trip!
The Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens located in Sumida (墨田) was built during the time of the peak of the urban culture of the Edo period (江戸時代) during the 19th century. Sahara Kikuu (佐原鞠塢), who was an antique dealer, created the gardens and gathered the help of his friends to be able to develop the Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens now that was formerly a privately operated flower garden. The site where the garden was built is actually under the land possession of the Taga (多賀) Clan who were the retainers of the shogun (将軍) at the time of the Edo period.
Currently, the Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens holds around roughly 870 trees and 570 shrubs in its vicinity and not to mention the large variety of plants available all throughout the garden such as camellia, sasanqua, Japanese apricot, cherry blossoms, deutzia, and of course the Japanese bush clovers.
The Hagi Festival at the Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens will be taking place from the September 17th until October 2nd of 2016 featuring various beautiful flowers home to the autumn season. The Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens have different flowers blooming in its premise all year round and the visitors can expect to see a myriad of them.
Directly planted on the grounds of the garden is the Seven Flowers of Autumn. But one of the breathtaking sights to see is the long tunnel of Japanese bush clovers grown out on a 30-meter long bamboo frame that welcomes all the visitors passing through the tunnel. And aside from the sights to see in the gardens, you can also get to engage yourself in an outdoor tea ceremony that they hold. Both the beauty of the garden and the tea ceremony is a cultural experience that you’ll surely want to try out.
The Nashinoki Shrine located in Kamigyo (上京), Kyoto (京都) is a shrine that was built in the days of 1885. It enshrines both the imperial advisers of the late Edo period, Sanju Sanetsumu (三条実万) and his son Sanetomi (三条実美). The shrine is built on the east side of the Kyoto Imperial Palace and is only just a few minutes of walking distance from the Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅) making it very accessible to everyone.
The Nashinoki Shrine is also known for the Somei spring (染井) that it houses which is considered as one of the purest springs in Kyoto. This brings daily visitors to the shrine who would get a certain amount of the spring water. But another fact that makes the Nashinoki Shrine known during the autumn season is the annual Hagi Festival that it holds.
The hagi plant is spread all throughout the grounds of the shrine making it easy to spot for anyone passing by the area. If you are in Kyoto during the periods of mid to late September, these are the most likely time that you could encounter the plants in its vibrant tranquility.
There are approximately around 500 Japanese bush clovers spread all around the Nashinoki Shrine having strips of paper on them where poems are written. The Hagi Festival will hold a number of fun and enjoyable events for its visitors such as Kyogen plays (狂言 – Japanese comic theater), Koto playing (琴 – traditional Japanese instrument), dancing (舞), and a whole lot more happening in front of the shrine from September 17th to 19th, 2016.
The autumn season in Japan brings its own beauty and spectacle that spreads out far and wide in every region. The well-known cities of Tokyo and Kyoto take out its own charm with their unique Hagi Festivals for every local and foreign tourist to enjoy. This will surely serve as a little tip for everyone out there who’s about to go on a journey in Japan this autumn season!