Sengan-en Chrysanthemum Festival
15,000 chrysanthemums against the stunning backdrop of active volcano Sakurajima
Delight in the display of over 15,000 chrysanthemums against the stunning backdrop of active volcano Sakurajima at the yearly Sengan-en Chrysanthemum Festival. Impressive display pieces, mannequins wearing flower kimono, and carefully manicured bonsai bring a wave of seasonal colour to the gardens. This year marks the 61st time that the Chrysanthemum Festival has been held at Sengan-en, and this year’s theme is Satsuma Kiriko.
As the national flower of Japan and the symbol of the Imperial crest, chrysanthemums have long held deep meaning for the Japanese people. The versatile flowers last for a relatively long time before withering, symbolizing a long life. The bright colours, elegant shape, and gentle fragrance are also said to ward off evil, and the flowers were commonly placed around palace grounds as long ago as the Heian period (794-1185).
Initially associated with the annual ceremony called choyo (長陽), the chrysanthemum festival was originally celebrated by court nobles who would drink chrysanthemum wine to avoid calamity. Since chrysanthemums also bloom in the colder weather, it was thought that this practice would bring resilience for the winter months.
It was only since the Edo period (1603-1868) that displays of the flowers became popular. Towards the end of the Edo period competitions for growing the most spectacular chrysanthemum blooms became popular among the common people, and even feature in ukiyo-e prints of the time. By the Meiji period (1868-1912) complicated display pieces and mannequins adorned with flower kimono became a popular feature of chrysanthemum festivals across Japan.
Our gardeners have been hard at work for over six months preparing the displays for the festival deep in the mountains behind Sengan-en. In order for the chrysanthemums to bloom at the same time, dedicated gardeners spend months preparing the flowers. Weeks before the festival starts the gardeners wire each bud closed to prevent them blooming too early in a process called “osae”. The process must be repeated several times before the flowers are finally ready to bloom.
Local enthusiasts also bring their best chrysanthemums and bonsai for a competition, and visitors can see the difference between amateur and veteran growers. One display will feature the fascinating “tairin-giku” where hundreds of flowers are grown out into a dome shape from a single stalk.
Since the nobles of ancient Japan would drink chrysanthemum wine to stay healthy for the winter months, we have taken the bright sparkling colours and delicate engravings of Satsuma Kiriko crystal glass as our theme for this year. Look out for Satsuma Kiriko themed displays and events around the gardens throughout the festival.
There will also be a wide variety of cultural events held during the Chrysanthemum Festival including taiko drumming, and a thunderous display of matchlock rifles from the Hioki Teppo-tai!
The Chrysanthemum Festival is one of the most popular events at Sengan-en, and is the only chance to see a rainbow of delicate chrysanthemums against the backdrop of an imposing active volcano.