Fall is beautiful in Tokyo.
Fall is beautiful in Tokyo.
This morning glory green curtain covers the entire balcony in a 1970s apartment building. I am envious of how vigorous and full this vertical garden became. It seems that all the apartments have nets, perhaps to deter birds, yet few are so well used.
I am a big fan of Okinawa morning glory and Edo morning glory. The Edo ones typically have a white border and stripes, and come in many colors. They’re very showy, a good size for domestic spaces, and they evoke Tokyo history. The Okinawa morning glory is a deep blue perennial, and quickly spreads and covers much more space. Both share a distinctive leaf shape.
Every morning, lots of Okinawa morning glories are blooming on our balcony, and the green curtain is filling out. Unlike Edo morning glory plants, Okinawa morning glories are perennial. This year is the third summer we’ve had this deep blue flower. By noon, the flowers are already wilting.
Because of energy conservation, we haven’t used the air conditioning yet this year. Also, by not using the air conditioning, there’s more space for me to enjoy the balcony garden.
Even though I planted the seeds back in May, it’s only recently that the Edo morning glory vines have climbed up to the top of the balcony and begun blooming. As their name implies, the flowers are most spectacular in the morning. By afternoon, they wilt and are finished. Each day there are about a dozen new flowers.
Last year, I visited the famous Iriya morning glory festival and bought five different colors. Last year I harvested seeds from all the plants (and also bitter melon, chamomile and some that I forgot). It’s interesting that all of my plants, and those I gave to friends, are this red and white variegated variety.
Here you can see that I stored the seeds in sake cups bought from a student at Shiho ceramic studio.
Last week’s election provided me the perfect pretext to check out the elementary school I always pass on the way to the train station. There was some minor confusion about why the foreigner was getting close to the polling station, but I was there just to observe.
Growing morning glories is a common elementary school project. I like how this semi-circle of trained vines is so organized and decorative. The flowers vary in color, and each plant is marked with the classroom that is providing care. I heard that the students track the progress in notebooks. Looks like fun.
Our balcony’s Okinawa morning glory has started to bloom again. Unlike the variegated Japanese morning glories, this one is perennial.
This week I attended the Morning Glory festival in Iriya. Fifty vendors spread outside and inside the Iriya Kishimojin temple set up hundreds of thousands of plants for sale on July 6, 7 and 8. It is a symbol of the start of summer.
Many vendors wear traditional clothes, including hapi and momoshiki, plus towels worn as headbands to beat the summer heat. All the Japanese delivery services had representatives, who can deliver your morning glory throughout Japan for 800 yen (about $8.50).
Inside the temple I saw monks blessing plastic morning glory flowers with chanting and metal sparks. There was plumes of incense, small kids in colorful outfits, and television cameras.
I spoke with some European and Latin Americans working in the stall of their bonsai master Kobayashi Kunio. They confirmed that all the vendors were selling very similar plants. Most were four plants of different colored morning glory (pink, blue, purple, red, white, and striated flowers, and many with striated leaves) twined around a circular support. They also told me that the stalls were open from 6 am until 2 am, which makes for incredibly long days and little sleep. I picked up “ocean blue” for 2,500 yen and a four color mix for 2,000 yen.
Covered flower stalls occupied one side of the wide road, including one lane of traffic, and typical festival food the opposite side.