A Flower Power Event: The Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival
Throughout the seasons, Japan has many festivals celebrating nature and the beautiful yet temporary flowers that grow throughout the country. Therefore, in November, many Japanese people set out for the nearest chrysanthemum festival. There are many of these in Tokyo and one such festival is the Bunkyo Kiku Matsuri, or the Bunkyo Chrysanthemum festival. It is held at Yushima Tenjin Shrine, or what the locals call Yushima Tenmangu, and is located in Ueno, only a twenty-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.
The Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival contains over two-thousand colorful chrysanthemum flowers, creating an overwhelming site along the shrine paths. The festival showcases chrysanthemums in “Ozukuri” style, where wire armatures are used to hold up many flowers in one pot to create dome-like shapes that represent the motion of cascading off of a mountain. However, the main showcase at the festival is a set of three life-size dolls created out of chrysanthemum flowers. One display even showcased a large “Daruma” doll encased in chrysanthemum flowers standing in the middle of the “Ozukuri” displays.
The chrysanthemum flower is one of the most important flowers in Japan, though many may not realize this because of the popularity of the “sakura”, or cherry blossom flower well-known in Japan during the spring season. Chrysanthemums, the flowers that bloom during autumn as the cold winter approaches, have come to be a symbol of longevity and rejuvenation. The flower is even the symbol of the Imperial Family Emblem, and is featured on things such as the Imperial Seal of Japan, the Japanese Passport, and the fifty yen coin. One may even be honored by the emperor when given the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, the highest honor given by him.
Along with viewing the displays, visitors could also buy their own chrysanthemum plants, planted in brightly-colored pots that matched the vibrant colors of the flowers growing inside. The paths of the shrine are lined with the beckoning smell of the delicious goods of food vendors, some even selling grilled goods cooked in chrysanthemum oil.
You could also purchase “Ema” at the festival, wooden plaques that you may write your wish on and hang at the shrine to be seen by the “Kami”, or Japanese God. Along with “Ema”, visitors can buy a fortune, or “O-Mikuji”, which will give blessings ranging from ‘great’ to ‘small’, or ones that may even be ridden with a curse. Those containing a curse are often folded and tied off at the shrine, so that the bad luck is taken away. The “Kami” at Yushima Tenjin Shrine is the god of scholarship or learning, so many students come to wish for good luck on their exams and in other aspects of school.
During the autumn season, Japanese people celebrate the endurance of the chrysanthemum flower and the bright color that it brings to the season as the weather begins to cool. If in Japan during early November, make sure to find your closest chrysanthemum festival to celebrate the beautiful flower.