After the whirlwind cherry blossom season has swept across Tokyo, leaving only fond memories of streets blanketed in pink and perhaps a throbbing head from one too many drunken hanami parties, we remember that a world does indeed exist outside of our beloved city. Continue reading “Spring Day Trips from Tokyo”
When you think of the Japanese way of life, words that typically come to mind are orderly, calm or disciplined.
Then there are matsuri, or Japanese festivals…
Red spider lilies are on everyone’s lips right now! These gorgeous, bright red flowers signify the start of autumn and are now in full bloom.
Interestingly, these flowers are actually also associated with death in Japan. You’ll see lots of spider lilies around graves, where they represent the souls of the dead. Also, farmers make the most of the poisonous bulbs by planting them around their fields to keep pests away! But, as is the Japanese way, they like to celebrate everything, even if it’s a flower symbolising death!
Wednesday was Autumnal Equinox Day, a public holiday here in Japan, so to make the most of this day off work, I met up with a friend and headed to the most famous place in the country to see these lilies.
Kinchakuda is a park in Hidaka, Saitama prefecture, about an hour north-west of Tokyo. A cool, shallow river runs around the circumference of the park, in a horseshoe-shape, almost making it feel like an island. While the outer edge of the horseshoe is dense forest, the inner edge is packed with a sea of scarlet! It is an absolute crazy sight!
Five million spider lilies, in fact, cover the park like a warm blanket. The flowers themselves do remind me of spiders with their long, lanky legs! Butterflies and dragonflies fluttered around from flower to flower. The afternoon sun flickered through the forest canopy, lighting up the bright green stalks of the lilies. The sea of red flowers made for the perfect photo shoot background, and we saw many ‘photo shoots’ going on! I loved one couple in particular, dressed in cosplay – the guy reminded me of the Mad Hatter, and the girl of Little Red Riding Hood. The perfect couple, maybe!?
After wandering around the park in a daydream, we picked up some delicious yakisoba from one of the many local produce stalls and sat by the river, feet in the water, cool breeze washing over our faces. It was a great day!
In the blink of an eye, Golden Week came and went. Holidays always fly by way too quickly! I packed as much as I could into my four days off, venturing to new places, eating new food and meeting new people. By the end of it, I was left with lots of good memories… and about 500 photographs to sort through and edit!
Children’s Day, こどもの日, was one of the holidays celebrated during GW. Although no one knows exactly when this holiday started (anything up to 1000 years ago), it used to be a day to honour boys only. It officially became “Children’s Day” in the late 40’s.
For this festival, families with sons hang up carp streamers outside their house and display warrior dolls inside their house. It’s also common for there to be ‘koinobori festivals’ in public places where you can go and see hundreds of carp flying high in the sky. It’s quite spectacular to walk underneath these huge 5 metre long streamers. They really do look like fish flying in the sky!
A little bit about the background of koinobori… the carp, called koi in Japanese, are a symbol of good luck. They are a type of fish able to swim upstream by jumping up out of the water. These carp are said to have qualities of strength, courage and success. So, they represent the type of men that parents wish their sons will grow into.
~ Koinobori along the Tama River in Noborito, Kanagawa ~
~ Koinobori in Miura, Kanagawa ~
This family shows a black carp which represents the father, a red carp for the mother, then one blue carp which represents their son.
~ Koinobori in Kawagoe, Saitama ~
Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls) in a private house in Kawagoe