asa gao

Elementary school teaches kids to grow morning glory

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.

Morning glory festival in Iriya

Morning glory festival in Iriya

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.

Iriya Kishimojin monks blessing morning glories

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.

Police at Iriya morning glory festival ayu fish at morning glory festival in Iriya