Every year in June, the "IKIIKI Hydrangea Festival" will be held at the temple of Chokoku-ji in Asakusa. "Iki-iki" is a Japanese word that means "energetic and fresh". Summer in Japan is hot, and even with air conditioners and such, it is easy to get tired every day. This festival started with the aim of refreshing people by letting them experience the customs that have been handed down since the Edo period to help them get through the summer in good health.
In the Edo period, people would look at potted hydrangeas, the flower of early summer, to feel at ease and cool off. This festival is famous for the wide variety of hydrangeas that can be viewed. Last year, about 100 kinds of hydrangeas were gathered from all over Japan and people enjoyed "hydrangea hanami (flower viewing)". You can also buy hydrangeas at the festival, and especially the ones in hanging baskets that can only be bought in Asakusa are famous.
Another summer health custom that you can enjoy at this festival is to receive moxibustion on your head while receiving prayers from the monks to seal off the summer fatigue. After the moxibustion and prayers, you can refresh yourself from the inside out by drinking "yakuzen cucumber soup," a soup containing cucumbers with kombu and shiitake mushroom broth. Yakuzen is a type of cooking that uses appropriate ingredients and Chinese herbal medicines to promote health, depending on the season and physical condition. Cucumbers are said to have the effect of cooling down the body's heat, making it a perfect ingredient for the hot summer months.
This year's IKIIKI Hydrangea Festival will be held this week on June 19th (Sat) and 20th (Sun). This year, due to the impact of COVID-19, the size of the festival will be reduced, and only the potted hydrangea exhibition will take place.
For more information on the IKIIKI Hydrangea Festival, click here!