Wisteria Festival in Tokyo

By: Jane B. & Clyde F. Holt
This item appears on page 16 of the September 2017 issue.

Wisteria and bridge at Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Tokyo. Photo by Clyde F. Holt

In late April, at the end of our 2017 sakura (cherry blossom) trip to Japan, we were still looking for flowering trees even after six weeks of viewing and photographing cherry blossoms. 

We headed to the Fuji Matsuri, or Wisteria Festival (fuji = wisteria), at Kameido Tenjin Shrine, a 15-minute walk from Kameido Station on the So¯bu Line in Tokyo.

The wisteria vines there are supposed to bloom from the middle of April to the first week in May. When we visited on April 26, 2016, and on April 24, 2017, we found the blossoms open but not as full as we had expected or hoped.

The festival amounted to nothing more than several dozen stalls selling food, local specialties, religious souvenirs and all sorts of trinkets. On that weekday, the shrine was bustling with visitors; on weekends during the festival, it must be terribly crowded. 

During this period, the shrine and the wisteria pergolas are illuminated at night, but we visited in the daytime.

We found much to photograph: arched vermillion bridges; a large pond with turtles, koi, ducks and one egret; traditional shrine buildings, and, of course, pendant wisteria flowers attracting giant bees and tourists alike. Some of the pergolas supporting the climbing vines are plastic tree trunks; fortunately, this tacky feature can be overlooked if you focus on the blossoms.

In 2016 we spoke to a German expat who had lived in Tokyo for many years. She said the blossoms that year were terrible in comparison to 2015’s, when they were spectacular. We were not overly impressed with what we saw in either year we visited, though the wisteria in 2017 were fuller than they were in 2016.

Our photos look better than the reality of the blossoms because you can stand in just the right place and capture the fullest blooms. 

By the way, I learned that I really don’t like the perfume of wisteria, so our 2017 visit was probably our last.

Hinesburg, VT