Why Kinchakuda should be on your bucket list

Of the "30 reasons to go to Japan before you die" -- a list of places with exceptionally breathtaking views -- one of them is a must-see at the beginning of autumn. And it is an easy day trip from Tokyo. 

#24 Lycoris in Kinchakuda / Saitama.  

Kinchakuda is a purse-shaped field outlined by the Koma River. Most of the year, this place is charming and bucolic, but its best season is undoubtedly autumn when the entire riverside is carpeted with over five hundred thousand vivid red spider lilies in full bloom. It is the biggest single area where these flowers are grown in close proximity to each other. The flowers are also known as lycoris or amaryllis, and in Japanese, higanbana or manjushage (the latter from Chinese). This spectacular sight can be viewed from mid-September to early October and is celebrated in the area's Manjushage Festival. 

You might spot these flowers in Tokyo or elsewhere. They grow from bulbs and the shoots pop up looking like fresh asparagus. Rain encourages their growth. Each shoot will bloom into several short flower stalks with long projecting stamens, appearing graceful, delicate, and almost magical. Now picture an entire stretch blanketed with bursts of these bright red wonders.  Truly a feast for the eyes.

The bulbs of the red spider lilies are poisonous and this is why they are used around rice paddies and houses to keep pests and rodents away. They were also traditionally planted in and around graveyards to keep wild animals from disturbing the dead in pre-cremation days. The bright color of the red spider lilies is also believed to lead souls into the afterlife. According to some folklore, these flowers bloom along the path of departing lovers who are not destined to ever be together again. One could almost picture the dramatic touch these flowers add to  a tragic romance. Due to all these dark meanings, these flowers are never given as presents.

The flower's grim associations, however, do not dissuade more than 10,000 visitors daily who come to see this breathtaking sight. The most distinguished visitors would have to be the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko who visited Kinchakuda last September 20, 2017.  

The best way to get here is by train. It is possible to bring your own car and there are parking spaces in various locations in and around Kinchakuda but you will most likely be stuck in slow moving traffic. The nearest train station is Koma Station along the Seibu Chichibu Line. From Ikebukuro, take the Seibu Ikebukuro line all the way to Hanno and change at Hanno for the Seibu Chichibu line. Koma is two stops down. If you don't want to waste any time and have money to spare, then take the Red Arrow from Ikebukuro for an extra fee and cut your travel time short. During the festival period, the Red Arrow makes a special stop at Koma. 

From the train station, follow the hoards of people heading the same way. Kinchakuda is about a 10 minute walk downhill from Koma Station.  The atmosphere is festive. After you walk through the red carpet of flowers and run out of space in your digital camera, head to the booths and sample local delicacies from the various vendors.

If you visit toward the end of the manjushage festival, the cosmos flowers will also start to bloom in sections of Kinchakuda, which makes for some pretty photos against Mt. Hiwada. Since you're already in the area, stop by Alishan Cafe for some great organic treats.
Kinchakuda's Manjushage via http://mapio.net/pic/p-14917353/

Sherilyn Siy