At the mention of floral festivals in Japan, most people would have the impression that these take place only during the spring and summer season. However, do you know that there are three autumn floral festivals in Hokkaido which you can check out this autumn 2016? Read on to find out more about them so that you can add these festivals to your itinerary!
The Sapporo Kiku Matsuri i.e. Sapporo Chrysanthemum Festival began in 1963 wherein chrysanthemum flowers within Hokkaido are gathered and displayed at the underground walkway that connects the subway stations of Odori and Sapporo, usually between the end of October and early November. This time, the 2016 edition will be held from the 1st to the 3rd of November.
The chrysanthemum is a very tough flower which can grow under harsh conditions. Historically, it has been significantly featured in traditional Japanese culture and is of great importance since the royal family uses it as their imperial crest.
Besides educating the public on how to admire these blooms, the festival also provides information on how to grow them and use them in flower arrangement works. Over 800 pieces of chrysanthemums from enthusiasts will be lined up at the underground shopping center of Aurora Town for the judging competition which brings along a whiff of floral fragrance to the area. Entrance to the festival grounds is for free so do swing by to check out the side events such as traditional Japanese dances, musical performances, and showcases of various cultural activities.
During the opening ceremony of the festival happening at the intersection square of Kita 3-Jo at 11 am on the 1st of November, the winning chrysanthemums for the six categories i.e. 4 Ministers’ Award, the Prefectural Governor’s Prize, and the City Mayor’s Prize will be announced. Throughout the festival, free stalks of chrysanthemums are given out at various locations so be sure to check the details depending on the date of your visit.
To access the festival venue, you can take the subway on the Namboku Line, Tozai Line, or Toho Line to get to Odori Station (大通駅).
The Kitami Kiku Matsuri is the oldest and largest chrysanthemum festival taking place in Hokkaido. Its 64th edition takes place this 2016 and will be held from the 21st to the 31st of October. Entrance to the festival grounds at the JR Kitami Station South Multipurpose Square is free of charge and visitors can come by anytime between 10 am and 4 pm.
Besides showcasing about 15,000 pots of chrysanthemum blooms to form a flower garden, you can see another 1,500 floral displays featuring this autumn flower which are part of a judging competition. One unique feature of this festival is that they will use chrysanthemum flowers to decorate dolls in line with the current year’s NHK Taiga drama. This 2016, the theme will be based on Sanada Maru starring Sakai Masato so don’t forget to check out the unique dolls dressed in these colorful flowers. Other than treating your eyes to a visual feast, there is also a local produce festival where visitors can enjoy hearty treats from Kitami at the attached food court.
To get to the festival venue which is just a 3-minute walk from the JR Kitami Station, you can choose any of the following ways:
- Take a highway bus from Sapporo to Kitami, and walk for 5 minutes from the Kitami Bus Terminal.
- Take a domestic flight to Memanbetsu Airport and change to the airport transfer bus which will bring you to the Kitami Bus Terminal in 45 minutes.
When you visit the Kitami Kiku Festival this 2016, you can get an even better deal by enjoying two more festivals that take place around the same period. If you are planning to visit on the first few days of the festival and a beer lover, check out the Kitami Oktober Fest 2016 which will be held between the 19th and the 22nd of October. Alternatively, if you would like to spend Halloween in Kitami or you just love parties, the inaugural Okhotsk Kitami Halloween Festival from the 29th to the 31st of October, 2016 should be your cup of tea. (Note: The venue for the Halloween Festival differs depending on the date of your visit. And the opening hours on the 29th and the 30th are in the daytime i.e. 10 am to 4 pm, while the action on the 31st will be at night i.e. 6:30 pm to 8 pm.)
The Taiyo-no-Oka Cosmos Festa, literally “The Hills of the Sun Cosmos Festa,” is an annual event held at the Taiyo-no-Oka Engaru Park (太陽の丘えんがる公園) which is one of Japan’s largest cosmos garden in the eastern part of Hokkaido spanning an area of 10 hectares. At the Niji-no-Hiroba (虹のひろば) i.e. Rainbow Square, 16 species of 10 million stalks of red, pink, white, orange, and yellow cosmos can be admired from late August to early October. During this period, an official declaration on the first blooms will be made sometime in late August which is followed by the Engaru Cosmos Kaika Sengen Hanabi Taikai (えんがるコスモス開花宣言花火大会) that features the launching of 1,500 fireworks to mark the start of the festival and the beginning of autumn. Subsequently, various activities like music concerts and performances of traditional art such as the Engaru Ganbou Taiko (遠軽がんぼう太鼓) are held and are broadcasted live via the local STV radio station.
By the time you read this, this 2016 festival would have already ended but you can still take note of the following details as a reference when planning a visit to the upcoming edition. This 2016, the festival was held from the 20th of August to the 2nd of October and the park was open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm. The declaration for the first blooms and the fireworks festival were held on the 27th of August, while the side events were held on the 11th of September. Although there is an admission fee of 300 yen and 150 yen for adults and children respectively, this was waived during the early part of the festival due to the weather conditions that resulted in the later-than-usual blooming of the cosmos this 2016. If you visit in a group of 15 and above, you can get a bulk discount. Take note that pets are not allowed in the park.
The cosmos which represents sincerity and love is a very tough flower which thrives in places where the temperature ranges from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. As fertilizers affect the number of cosmos blooms, they are usually grown without adding any fertilizers or adding just a little bit if needed. In addition, an airy place with well-drained soil is more suitable for the cosmos which can’t grow well on wetlands.
The Taiyo-no-Oka Engaru Park which was opened in 2003 has been maintained by more than 2,000 volunteers including the town’s residents, employees of local businesses, and high school students. In order to get here, you can take a taxi from the JR Engaru Station for 8 minutes. As for getting to the JR Engaru Station, you can take the trains from Sapporo (approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes), Asahikawa (approximately 2 hours), or Abashiri (approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes). Last but not least, the park is only opened between the 29th of April and the 31st of October so if you want to see the last of the cosmos here this 2016, you should probably take action soon.
After reading about these floral festivals, be sure to check out the beauty they have to offer in this chilly autumn!