Manjushage Festival, Koma

Where the red spider lilies weave a magical web

By Allan Murphy    - 3 min read

For fifty weeks of the year, the town of Koma (one stop past Hanno on the Seibu Ikebukuro line; 50 km from Ikebukuro, Tokyo) could be just about anywhere in rural Japan: peaceful, relaxing and a good hiking area. But at the end of September and early October the area bursts into color when 500,000 special flowers come into bloom. Called higanbana and manjushage in Japanese or cluster amaryllis, and, my preference, red spider lilies in English, the area's fields are transformed into a surreal atmosphere.

In Tokyo red spider lilies can be seen here and there singly or in small clusters and might not be overly impressive. However, expenses of tens of thousands of them are something to behold. The dazzling red flowers look like miniature fireworks explosions.

Every year, depending on the weather, Koma has a manjushage festival, usually starting around Sept 20, lasting for about 2 to 3 weeks. The Seibu Ikebukuro line's Red Arrow is an express train that normally zooms past Koma on its way to Chichibu. But during the festival, it makes a special stop. (around ¥1000; it leaves on the half hour and takes 47 minutes. Of course, there are slower, less expensive trains).

From the station, it is easy to find the path down to the river and the flowered fantasy land. Along the way, local farmers sell their fresh produce. There is a modest admission fee of ¥300 and then you are free to roam freely. Most of the spider lilies are along the Koma River and this is a nice place for a picnic. The river is shallow and youngsters of all ages enjoy skipping stones. There are many kingfishers in the area.

An area is set aside for food stalls, drinks, T-shirts and various other items. I always have lunch at Alishan, a mellow vegetarian restaurant—and there aren't many in the area. It is very pleasant to sit on the patio nearby the river. Then, it is difficult to leave the small Tengu Natural Food store without buying some granola bars and organic pumpkin seeds as snacks for the adventures that lay ahead in the day.

There are many things to see and do in Koma; there are bridges to cross, temples to visit, and trails to explore. It is unlikely that your first visit to this area will be your last. However, to see Koma at it's best you should act soon.

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Allan Murphy

Allan Murphy @allan.murphy

Although I consider Vancouver to be my home, I'm an army brat and grew up in London, Ont., Birkenhead, UK; Soest, West Germany (then); and Petawawa, Ont. As a result, I became a rolling stone: lived in China (Chengdu), Western Auatralia  and about 30 years in Japan. It ain't over yet.

Join the discussion

Olga 4 years ago
I like spider lilies!
Nicole Bauer 4 years ago
Thank you Rebecca! So they expect the best viewing from September 17, can't wait. Allan just confirmed that the super express train, which usually just zoom through Koma, will again make a special stop there in the time between September 20 and October 5.
Rebecca Quin 4 years ago
Hi Nicole! Thanks for your question. The first buds have already started to bloom (9th September) and are expected to last until early October. Enjoy!
Nicole Bauer 4 years ago
Soon it's time again for the spider lilies! Do you know the dates of this year's festival?