Tokyo Now

Tokyo Now#11: A summer flower Japanese loved for centuries

Tokyo Now


We had unusually long rainy season this year. But it finally ended. Now that the hot summer is here in Tokyo area, we see summer flowers blooming everywhere.

Speaking of summer flowers to grow at your house, what flower do you come up with first?

In Japan, asagao (morning glory) has been the most popular flower to grow since Edo period (1600-1867). The first asagao boom sprang up in the first half of 19th century. In the town of Edo (Tokyo was called Edo then) many asagao growers appeared. As people wanted asagaos of variant shapes and colors, they developed various mutant asagaos. In the second half of 19th century the numbers of mutant asagaos grew up to 1200!

Usually local open fairs where growers sell potted asagaos are held in early summer. But most of the fairs were suspended this year due to coronavirus. I was lucky to find historic asagao plants exhibited at the garden of the Japanese History Museum in Chiba prefecture.

Many haiku poets took up asagao as subject. Here is the most famous one written by Kaga no Chino.

Morning glory!

Well bucket entangled

Force me ask water

(朝顔に つるべ取られて もらい水)