Iriya, the Town of Morning Glory



2021.07.08 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

Morning Glory is a flower that is very familiar to Japanese people, and called ‘Asagao’ in Japanese. The flowers peak now in early July, and this is the time when you often see planters of morning glory under the eaves of houses. Also, Japanese elementary school students often grow morning glory for school, keeping observation diaries. Although it was canceled this year due to the impact of COVID-19, the Shingen-ji Temple in Iriya, Taito City, holds the “Iriya Asagao Matsuri (Morning Glory Flower Festival)” every year for three days from July 6th to July 8th. It is a festival where about sixty morning glory sellers sell morning glories in a variety of colors, and visitors also enjoy the fair with about ninety street stalls.

The Iriya Asagao Matsuri originates from the fact that Iriya became famous as the town of morning glory at the end of the Edo period. While ordinary morning glories have petals that form a circular pentagon, the gardeners in Iriya at the time used crossbreeding to produce morning glories with different shapes like star-shaped morning glories like Chinese bellflowers. These crossbreeds became popular as ‘Kawari-zaki’ (unique breeds), and sometimes people had to pay money to see them. When the Taisho period arrived, the morning glory cultivation in Iriya ceased at one point. However, as part of the reconstruction efforts after the Second World War, the Iriya Asagao Matsuri began.

Although the Iriya Asagao Matsuri was canceled this year, the Shingen-ji Temple is offering the Morning Glory Charms that they annually sell to visitors until July 15th (Thu). So, it’s a chance for everyone to get Japan’s summer feature, the Morning Glory Charm!

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