It’s nearly Tsukimi (moon viewing) here in Japan and we’ve just celebrated the autumnal equinox today. I’ve been praying for a lessening of the near constant rain lately so I can make the trek out to Kinchakuda in Saitama. If you’re a flower lover (or just someone who appreciates stunning natural scenery), this out-of-the-way park NEEDS to be on your September itinerary.
Kinchakuda Park (“drawstring bag park”) is so named due to its unusual sack-like shape, formed by the course of the Koma River. In late September to mid-October, the park’s forest and riverbanks come alive with waves of vivid red spider lilies, or manjushage.
Spider lilies are also called higanbana, or “equinox flowers” (the Japanese word for equinox is higan). As the name suggests, these flowers tend to bloom around the autumn equinox and that seems to be holding true this year as there are several clumps of higanbana that sprouted up on the route to my daughter’s school.
Spider lilies also have a rather dark side to them. They are known as “the death flower”, due to their toxicity when consumed.. They were often planted in cemeteries, since they were poisonous to rodents and mice who tried to eat them and would thus keep the small animals from digging up any decomposing bodies. Even now, you’ll still see them planted along the edges of rice paddies to keep the rodents from consuming the crop.
Spider lilies bloom in abundance in Kinchakuda and it’s one of the best places I know to see the flower in huge sweeping fields. The park is a 10-15 minute walk from Koma station in Saitama, best reached by train from Ikebukuro and then a switch at Hanno station to a local train for just a few minutes to reach Koma. Signs point the way in Japanese but you can just follow the crowds on the walk from the station down the lovely country back roads. There was a small fee when I went a few years ago but I don’t remember it being more than ¥200 or ¥300.
Spider lilies will generally bloom until the middle of October but I wouldn’t wait that long. The ones in the city are already in full flower so if you’re planning a trip to see them, make it soon!