Iriya Morning Glory Festival, a Reminder of the Summer at Shitamachi, Tokyo

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Written by  Akira Kato

Over the weekend in summer, almost everywhere in Japan is rejuvenated by a local festival.Last year, my friends and I visited Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple), where the Iriya Morning Glory Festival was taking place.

Morning Glory, a Favorite of the Japanese

Morning glory, called “asagao” (literally meaning “morning face”) in Japan, is no more than an ordinary wild flower in Mainland China and Taiwan, but a favorite ornamental plant for the Japanese. Word has it that that morning glory was introduced from China to Japan in the Edo period, when it was initially cultivated in Okachimachi. As time went by, the gardeners in Iriya began to cultivate morning glory in their shops. It became a part of the streetscape in summer in the mid Meiji period and a familiar ornamental plant among the locals.

The custom of holding the Iriya Morning Glory Festival, a grand ceremony of Tokyo’s Shitamachi, which dated back to that period, has survived to this day.

Asagao (morning glory), a favorite of the Japanese
Asagao (morning glory), a favorite of the Japanese

The Iriya Morning Glory Festival is Held between July 6 and July 8 Each Year

The Iriya Morning Glory Festival is held between July 6 and July 8 each year, when a morning glory market, reputed to be the largest one of its kind in Japan, is held around Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple) and more than 90 food stalls (yatai) are set up in the market as well. Such a festival, a vivid reminder of the Edo period, attracts about 400,000 tourists each year. And all the lanes there will turn into a playground for the people coming on foot if road traffic is controlled.

All the lanes become a playground for the people coming on foot
All the lanes become a playground for the people coming on foot

Basic information on the Iriya Morning Glory Festival

Address
Iriya Kishimojin and surrounding area; 1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito, Tokyo
Telephone
03-3841-1800 (Iriya Morning Glory Executive Committee)
Duration
July 6 to July 8 each year
Opening hours
5:00-23:00
Access
5-minute walk from the South Exit of Uguisudani Station on JR East’s Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line / 1-minute walk from Iriya Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
Official website (in Japanese only)
http://www.asagao-maturi.com/

The bustling roads are lined with many food stalls and, of course, a lot of growers selling morning glories.

a lot of growers selling morning glories.
a lot of growers selling morning glories.

Praying at Iriya Kishimojin

Most of the visitors to the Festival are bound to pray at Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple), a temple built in 1659, where Kishimojin, an important tutelary deity in Buddhism, is enshrined.

Praying at Iriya Kishimojin
Praying at Iriya Kishimojin
Praying at Iriya Kishimojin
Praying at Iriya Kishimojin

After worship, they may buy amulets as Kishimojin is fervently believed to be not simply a protector of Buddhism, but a guardian angle of women and children.

buy amulets
buy amulets

Information on Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple)

Temple name
Shingen-ji Temple
Address
1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito, Tokyo
Nearest station
Iriya Station, Ueno Station and Uguisudani Station
Telephone
03-3841-2569
Opening hours
10:00-17:00