The Red Spider Lilies of Kinchakuda
No, we didn’t come to Japan during the cherry blossom season. 🙁 But it turns out that Japan has a whole lot of surprises up its floral kimono sleeves. We just randomly stumbled upon this little known (outside Japan) event, the blooming of the red spider lilies of Kinchakuda (巾着田).
Located a mere hour outside Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, Kinchakuda Park lies on a forested bend along the shores of the Koma River. For about 8-10 days each year, a spectacular red carpet of lilies forms beneath the trees creating a fairy tale scene unlike anything we have ever encountered before.
Clearly, as the peak bloom occurs for only a few days and the park is located just outside one of the planet’s largest cities – you will not be alone during your visit. But the park is well organized with defined paths to protect the flowers and allow visitors to freely explore and photograph to their heart’s content.
Beyond being beautiful, red spider lilies have a symbolic meaning. The flowers mysteriously bloom right around the autumnal equinox and are associated with the coming darkness of winter. Over time, this fact has led Japanese to associate the flowers with the transition between light and dark, life and death. Japanese often plant the beautiful, bright-red flowers around cemeteries to placate spirits and create a colorful boundary between the world of the living and the netherworld beyond. Hey, we should use these flowers as Halloween decorations.
As you can see from the pictures below, the flowers and the forest scenes are quite stunning. Before you accuse me of going crazy with Photoshop, I should explain the wild colors and lighting. As the flowers bloom, they start with a very pronounced white outline along the petals, which makes some of the flowers appear pink from a distance. The white outline gives the flowers a very odd, surreal quality as well, which was greatly enhanced by a sky of Swiss-cheese clouds and sunbeams.
As we moved through the forest, some of the flowers had been blooming longer, which meant they were darker red, and the white outlines were less pronounced. (You can see the difference in the picture with me ducking down in the dense field of flowers.)
If fairy tale flowers aren’t enough, I should also point out that just outside the forest, locals hold a Spider Lily Festival full of amazing regional foods and desserts. Seriously, what is better than an awesome natural phenomenon AND Japanese street food? Ummm, nothing. See tips on visiting at the end of this post.
Tips on Kinchakuda
The red spider lilies bloom in late September and usually reach full bloom around the autumnal equinox Sept. 22/23. Shortly before the bloom, the park website will put up a calendar predicting the peak of the bloom. Unfortunately, that page is removed after the bloom, so I can’t link to it.
It is easy and cheap (around $5) to get to Kinchakuda by train. Take the Seibu-Ikebukuro Express Line 急行 towards Hanno and transfer to the Seibu-Chichibu Line 各停 to Koma Station. You shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding your way, just follow the crowds of Japanese retirees decked out in their hiking clothes. 😉
Also, if you like colors as much as we do, feel free to check out our colorful post Kyoto Autumn Leaves.