Monday, September 21, 2009

Flower festival

In the small town of Koma, just outside Tokyo, the start of autumn marks the annual flower festival where visitors flood in to view the spectacular river bank fields of red spider lilies or higanbana. Although this was on a local scale, such season-marking events are common in Japan where the spring cherry blossom viewing (hanami) and autumn leaf viewing (momijigari) are major calendar landmarks.

The weather was perfect, a sentiment with which half of Tokyo apparently agreed, making the ratio between flowers to people rather close to a 1:1. Still, since the Japanese patience puts the British ability to queue to shame, this was hardly an issue.

While almost all spider lilies are red, an occasional white one pops up which is invariably marked by a hive of visitors wielding cameras, determined to immortalise this freak of nature in the midst of its red Borg clones. I imagine it's rather like being a celebrity.

At the end of the river bank path, a set of stalls selling green tea, nibbles and pictures of spider lilies on towels and postcards were set up to tempt the awe struck viewers. Meanwhile kids paddled in the river beneath a sign warning them that a Japanese water demon would devour them if they didn't take care. I watched optimistically, but no such luck.

A second anomaly Koma boasts is the existence of a vegetarian restaurant. Vegetarian-ism and vegan-ism is very uncommon in Japan which can be an issue for foreign visitors. Fish and indeed chicken is frequently not considered 'meat' when serving customers who desire such things. This particular restaurant was not run by Japanese people but was extremely good and overflowing with the day's out-of-towners.

I finished the day with a purple sweet potato ice cream. Mmm, ecstasy.

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