Morning glories market at Iriya (Iriya Asagao matsuri)
6 – 8 July 2018
Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple)
Every summer, about a hundred thousand pots of morning glories are in glorious bloom for three days in Iriya, a shitamachi (“downtown”) neighbourhood close to Ueno and Asakusa.
During the annual market, from 5 am to 11 pm, some 60 morning glories venders and 80 fair stalls will line Kototoi-dori Street, in and around the precincts of Shingen-ji Temple, popularly known as “Iriya Kishimojin”.
Photos (all) courtesy of Shitaya Tourism Association/ Iriya Asagao Steering Committee
Asagao: morning glories
An annual plant of the Convolvulaceae family, the morning glory (“asagao” in Japanese) is said to be originated in tropical Asia and the Himalaya region. In Japan, the seeds were introduced as herbal medicine, as a laxative, during the Nara period in the 8th century or so.
It was later in the Edo period, in the early 19th century, that morning glories generated a huge boom as an ornamental plant among the inhabitants of Edo (premodern Tokyo). One can witness the popularity of the plant of that time in a number of ukiyo-e prints, including works by Hokusai and Hiroshige.
The nurseries of Iriya
During the Edo period, morning glories were grown by low-class samurai living in Okachimachi, near Ueno, to supplement their income. They produced fabulous flowers by crossing them – double flowers, big gorgeous blooms, with frills, notched edges, in blue, black and purple…
In the subsequent Meiji period, several nurseries of Iriya followed suit. Their morning glories aquired fame and became a popular summer sight attracting many people.
Morning glories market at Iriya
Time changes things, and the morning glories market ceased in 1913. It was not until 1948 when the market was revived. Since then, the trumpet-shaped flowers bloom radiantly at the popular market, which draws some 400,000 visitors annually.
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