Autumn in Asuka – Higanbana Festival and Light Up Event
Asuka, the origin of the rising sun and arguably the first capital of Japan during the Asuka period, is an ancient village filled with precious treasures and natural wonders that are extremely significant to Japanese history.
And yet, in spite of how important this place may be, the limelight of Asuka is occasionally stolen from the attractions of Nara, another ancient capital of Japan during the Nara period, and thus the magnificence of this place is certainly overlooked.
In this article, I would like to introduce to you some recommended sites and events for you to enjoy at Asuka during September, including Asuka Dera (Asuka Temple), Higanbana Festival (Festival of cluster amaryllis) , along with the light up event known as Hikari no Kairou (光の回廊), so that we can finally wrap up summer and welcome autumn!
Before 593, when empress Suiko (Sogano Umako) took the throne, Japan was in a state of anarchy, where powerful families known as Gozokus were fighting over the hegemony of this country.
This turmoil came to some ease when the very famous Shotoku Taishi (Prince of Umayado) introduced the twelve level cap and rank system along with the Seventeen article constitution, which led to an establishment of a political system driven by a centralized government.
Along with establishing political stability, Empress Suiko and Prince Umayado worked on spreading the teaching of Buddhism across Japan and commissioned many temples.
Asuka Dera (Asuka Temple) established in 596 by Empress Suiko herself, enshrines the oldest Buddha statue of Japan: Asuka Daibutsu.
Although, the majority of the statue is restored since it was lost during a number of fires, the statue is considered a profound asset of Japanese history.
While at many Japanese temples religious related monuments are prohibited to take photos, this Daibutsu is ok!
The Higanbana Festival (彼岸花祭り) of Asuka Village
Did you know that during the week of 20th-26th of September, it is recognized as time of Ohigan (お彼岸)? A period to show gratitude towards your ancestors and undertake good deeds.
In Asuka, to celebrate this special week, Higanbana Festival and a light up event are held on an annual basis and this year it will be held on the 21st and 22nd of September.
Higanbana, known as cluster amaryllis or red spider lilies in English, blooms just at the right time for Ohigan, and therefore, this flower is considered symbolic to this tradition and usually associated with the arrival of Autumn, which is referred to as Shubun (秋分) in Japanese.
Throughout mid-September to early October the region of Asuka is dotted with vibrant red colors of Higanbana and the sea of these flowers stunningly enliven the Ohigan Festival.
Asuka is actually quite large in area, thus to reach many of the viewpoints scattered across the region, it is recommended that you use the free shuttle buses running during the festival.
The cluster amaryllis growing en mass is a sublime landscape of Asuka in autumn that cannot be replaced by any others. If you are looking for some hidden gems of Japan in September and October, Asuka will always have something for you and it will not let you down.
The Light up Event of Asuka, Hikari no Kairou (光の回廊)
On top of all the historical and natural wonders, the beauty of this place in September is further beautified with a light up event which involves countless decorations of candle lights which tint all of Asuka's sightseeing areas.
During the light up, all the temples are open after their operation hours and it is disclosed to the public free of charge. Therefore, if you want to do temple hopping on the cheap, with a light up to top it off, visiting Asuka during 21-22nd of September may be something for you to keep in mind.
Additionally, within the grounds, there will be food stores and live music to entertain you throughout the night.
Enjoying a delicious outdoor dinner sided with good music at the heart of Japanese history is definitely an unmissable experience.
If you are thinking of taking public transport to Asuka, you will need to catch the train to Kintetsu Kashihara Jingu Mae station or Asuka station on the Kintetsu Minami Osaka line (近鉄南大阪線) and then catch a bus called Kame bus (かめバス) to reach Asuka Village.
In case of accessing Asuka by car, there are many large car parks found across the region but the fees vary according to the business.