If you mention blooming flowers in Japan, most people would definitely think of the spring season. We all know about sakura (桜; cherry blossoms), tulips, iris, and other flowers that grow during this season. There are, in fact, many festivals that celebrate the spring bloom such as the Tulip Festival, cherry blossom viewing (花見), and so on. But did you know there are other unique attractive flowers that grow in Japan in summer, such as morning glories? There is also a festival to celebrate them, so let’s get to know more about these beautiful flowers.
Morning glories are large flowers that come in different colors such as blue, purple, pink, white, and more. There are thousands of varieties of morning glories; some are used as decorative and some therapeutic. The morning glories got that name because of the fact that they bloom only in the early morning. They require lots of sunshine and they usually become wrinkled in the afternoons.
Morning glories were brought to Japan from China during the Nara period (奈良時代) in the 8th century AD for medicinal purposes, but over time, they became popular household plants. You can see these flowers everywhere in summer in house gardens and houses in Japan. Called “morning beauty”, or “asagao (朝顔)” in Japanese, these flowers have large, colorful petals that are attractive to look at.
There are actually not many parks dedicated to morning glories as they are seen mostly as a household plant. It is actually a vine plant that people like to grow in their backyards. By some people, they are considered weeds because they grow so fast and occupy a lot of space.
The area of Iriya in Tokyo is very famous for its floral markets, especially in summer. Every year in July, there is an open market with nearly 100 flower shops selling the beautiful morning glories near the Shingen-ji (真源寺) Temple. The market will also have food stalls and other gift shops for you to stroll around.
The festival is conducted by the temple authorities as an event to welcome the summer. It starts early in the morning at 6:00am so that you can see the morning glories fresh and in full bloom. The market will be in Taito (台東), just one minute on foot from Iriya Station (入谷駅).
The flowers bloom in July and August during the summer in Japan and you can sometimes spot them in city parks. If you happen to be in Osaka (大阪), you can get a pretty good sight of these flowers in more numbers in the Daisen Koen Garden (大仙公園 日本庭園). Daisen Koen Garden is a famous spot for leisure activities in the city of Sakai (堺) in Osaka Prefecture as it has Sakai City Museum (堺市博物館) and a park inside it. In Tokyo (東京), you can get to see the morning glories at Iriya Asagao Ichi (入谷朝顔市) market.
There are also many places in Tokyo where you can see morning glories in the last week of July such as Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens (向島百花園) in Sumida Ward (墨田区), Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社) and Hibiya Park (日比谷公園) in Chiyoda Ward (千代田区), and Zenko-ji (善光寺) in Bunkyo Ward (文京区).
If you happen to be in Nagoya (名古屋), you can visit Meijo Park Flower Plaza (名城公園フラワープラザ) between the 22nd and 26th of July, and if you are in Kumamoto (熊本) City, you can visit the Higo Morning Glory Exhibition (肥後朝顔展) that takes place in Minami-aso Village (南阿蘇村) and Kumamoto Castle (熊本城) around 20th July and 6th August, respectively.
You can also find morning glories during late August and early September in places such as Hiroshima Botanical Gardens (広島市植物公園) in Hiroshima (広島), Yokohoma Muncipal Children’s Botanical Gardens (横浜市こども植物園) in Yokohoma City, and Kumamoto Zoological and Botanical Gardens (熊本市動植物園) in Kumamoto City.
If you can make the festival in Tokyo, be sure to visit from the early morning to catch these pretty flowers in their full, beautiful bloom! If you can’t make the festival, do plan a visit to get a glimpse of the “morning beauty” this July at one of the places near you! Enjoy the summer warmth and the beauty of the flowers at the Iriya Asagao Matsuri (入谷朝顔まつり) and other morning glory exhibitions this summer.
Iriya Morning Glory Festival website *Japanese only