Stroll Along The Magnificent Flower Carpets Of Kinchakuda Manjushage Park | CoolJapan

Japan’s beautiful cherry blossoms are adored by people worldwide and signify the arrival of Spring. But when autumn beckons, the Japanese people are treated to a lesser-known but equally spectacular sight —  the crimson red blooms of the Manjushage. 

Kinchakuda Manjushage Park During Autumn

Kinchakuda's red spider lilies. (Photo from: Raita Futo /CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)

In bold red hues with curled petals and delicate stamens that reach out towards the sky, the Manjushage, more commonly known as red spider lilies, is symbolic of autumn in Japan. And, the best place in Japan to admire these in their full glory is in Kinchakuda Manjushage Park in Saitama Prefecture.

Located just north of Tokyo, Saitama is only a convenient 30-minute train ride away and would make a perfect place for a unique day trip.

Get lost in magical red fields

Kinchakuda Manjushage Park Red Spider Lillies

The red spider lilies. (Photo from: Kakidai /CC BY-SA 4.0)

As summer bids goodbye and the weather cools down, more than five million pretty red spider lilies start to bloom in Kinchakuda Manjushage Park. Pretty is an understatement. These wispy delicate flowers in varying shades of coral red cover the forest floor like a magnificent red carpet that stretches endlessly. Words cannot explain its beauty so let this video captured by Saitama Prefecture Tourism take your breath away.

The splendid red spider lilies bloom only once a year for a short period of two weeks, from the middle of September to the beginning of October. This is the time when visitors flock to Saitama to catch a glimpse of this phenomenal artwork of nature.

Perched elegantly on slender naked stems, they seem to pop up almost mysteriously from the ground as there is no foliage for weeks before the blooms. Yes, the flowers and the leaves do not appear at the same time. As if by magic, beautiful red flowers sprout and brilliantly transform an ordinary green forest into dazzling fields of red. What a resplendent welcome into autumn!

How did this enchanted forest of red flowers come about?

Kinchakuda is actually a flat plain that was gradually carved out by the meandering Komagawa River over many years. From an aerial view, this area resembles the shape of a coin purse. That is why it is affectionately given the name of Kinchakuda ("kinchaku" means purse in Japanese).

Kinchakuda Aerial View

View of Kinchakuda from Mt. Hiwada. (Photo from: Koda6029 /CC BY-SA)

In its early days, this land was used to cultivate rice, which was later abandoned. Around the mid-1980s, the townspeople decided to clean up the overgrown bushes and to their surprise, discovered small clusters of wild red spider lilies growing along the river bank. It is believed that the bulbs were brought here by the upstream flow of the Komagawa River. This easy-to-grow flowering plant can thrive in basic conditions and in no time, they multiplied to the incredible sprawling red fields that attract throngs of visitors today.

Tourists In Kinchakuda Park In Autumn

Visitors taking pictures of full blooms in Kinchakuda Park. Photo from: Haya_BS /CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr 

The meaning of the Manjushage

According to Buddhism in Japan, Manjushage is a divine flower with its name roughly translating to "flower of the heavens" in English. This implies the falling of red flowers from the heavens as a symbol of an upcoming celebratory event. At the same time, this pretty red flower evokes a sense of poignancy as it is also associated with death and goodbyes. This is because the Manjushage is commonly found growing around Buddhist temples and cemeteries, and sometimes used during funerals.

In the past, people like to plant red spider lilies around burial graves to protect the bodies of their families. Although it looks lovely, this flower is poisonous and was used as a means to keep wild animals at bay. Naturally, the Manjushage also became known as the flower of death to some.

Whether joyous or ominous, the full blooms of the red spider lilies are still a gorgeous sight that brings with it the promise of cooler days to come.

Annual festivities to celebrate the beauty of the Manjushage

In typical fashion of Japanese celebrations, the Kinchakuda Manjushage Festival is held annually to allow locals and tourists alike to enjoy the beautiful flower blooms. With millions of bright red spider lilies set against the tranquil backdrop of the flowing river and the greenery, one can spend hours transfixed by the beauty of nature.

Besides flower viewing, there are plenty of stalls selling fresh local produce, delectable local food and traditional handicrafts lining the road to Kinchakuda as well. This festival is so popular that it attracts up to 300,000 people during the Masjushage blooming period of two weeks alone.

Those who have more time to explore Saitama can also hop over to Gongendo Park nearby. The park’s slopes are impressively planted with around 3 million red spider lilies, creating a landscape that is just as breathtaking as Kinchakuda.

Gongendo Park In Autumn

Red spider lilies blanketing the slopes in Gongendo Park.

Unfortunately, both events are cancelled this year to reduce the spread of COVID-19. On a happier note, you have ample time to plan your trip to Saitama for a most memorable flower-viewing extravaganza.