I didn’t read much about the chrysanthemum festival or Hirsoaki Castle before going there. My prior knowledge of chrysanthemums came from one of my university Spanish classes where I learned that in Mexico chrysanthemums are the flowers of death and only used in funerals. From what I’ve read, Hirosaki Castle is primarily known for and attracts over a million visitors during Golden Week for its cherry blossoms. After viewing a few photos on-line, I thought it would be worthy to see some of the chrysanthemum sculptures.
Hirosaki Castle Chrysanthemum Festival takes place at the end of October and beginning of November. In 2010, it lasted from October 23 until November 7 in the Botanical Garden section of Hirosaki Park. Adult admission to the festival is ¥300. A separate fee of ¥200 is charge for viewing the castle area. Upon paying for tickets, the clerk handed us a stamp quest map of the botanical garden. After searching for and receiving stamps at each of the five locations, we resubmitted our map and were awarded with souvenir stickers denoting the Castle’s 400 year anniversary.
Our family decided to visit the festival on its opening weekend. To our surprise, it was not crowded. Unfortunately, not all the chrysanthemums had bloomed so some of the sculptures appeared more like shrubs or potted plants. Although much of the terrain is paved with small rocks, it is accessible for strollers. Food stalls located between the Inner East Gate and East Gate entrance sold typical matsuri food, snacks, and toys.
Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China as far back as the 15th century BCE and were introduced to Japan by way of Korea in around the fourth century BCE. In 910 CE, the Japanese emperor adopted it as his official seal - a golden flower with 16 petals radiating from the center like flames from the sun.In that same year, the imperial court held its first chrysanthemum show. Subsequently, it adopted National Chrysanthemum Day (September 9), which is called the Festival of Happiness. Japanese regard chrysanthemum as their solar flower and it symbolizes national pride, obedience, long life, and happiness.
Chrysanthemum petals are edible. Chinese make tea out of them which is supposedly good for flu. Petals can also be added to cream soups and salads.