The Iriya Morning-Glory Festival (Iriya Asagao Matsuri) is held each year on 6, 7 and 8 July, right around the Tanabata festival. The Kototoi Street around Iriya Kishimojin (Shingen-ji Temple) is filled with stalls selling morning-glory flowers. The market for the flowers is called the Iriya Asagao Ichi, which translates as Iriya Morning-Glory Market.
This festival began in the Meiji period (1868-1912) after a gardener planted a morning glory flower in various parts of Iriya. A whole business started in Iriya that collapsed by 1913 as more and more buildings were constructed in the area, pushing out the Morning-Glory cultivators. With it also the Morning-Glory festival was scrapped. However, it was revived in 1948 by a group of locals and the Shitaya Tourism Association and grew since then to become a festival where around 120.000 plants (at 60 stalls) are on display with 400.000 visitors during the three-day period. At the same time, it is a regular temple festival as well with about 80 stalls selling mainly food. In 2017, it has been organised for the 68th time.
The tag you see everywhere which is the logo of the market.
On one side of Kototoi Street (with view of Tokyo Sky Tree) you have the stalls selling the morning-glory flowers, on the other side you have the more general food stalls. I was a bit surprised to see cars still running on the street when I visited so that you only have the sidewalk to walk on, making the walkway very narrow. They are only closing the street from 17:00 until 21:30 on weekdays, from 12:00 until 21:30 on weekends. The flowers are most beautiful in the morning, so it is a bit unfortunate that at the peak time it is rather difficult to get around.
The first thing that struck me is that so many people were carrying a plant, which means most of the people visiting here are actually also buying the flowers. While a lot of people were holding the flowers they bought, it is also possible to have them home delivered. Behind most the stalls is a guy from Yamato Kuroneko (largest delivery service in Japan) to arrange the flowers to be sent to your doorstep.
The crowds: notice on the right someone from Yamato Kuroneko, they were everywhere.
The prices at the market for the morning-glory flowers are fixed for the basic types of morning-glory flower. You will see at most stalls a price list on a plain white paper with these prices called Asagao Teikahyo (morning glory fixed price table). The regular price for one pot was JPY 2000 in 2017. The main types were Iriya Asagao Andonzukuri (1 pot with wooden sticks in the shape of an andon, a type of Japanese lantern, the traditional type of flower pot at this market), Yōhaku Asagao (morning-glory flower with white lines), Kikyōsaki Asagao (lily-type morning-glory) and Seiyō Asagao (1 pot western-type morning-glory flowers)
Next to these 4 basic types, there are many more, from one single color, multicolor, all kinds of patterns, evening-glory flowers, and many more. One that I liked was the ocean waves pattern with several types of blue. My advice is to not buy immediately at the first stall you see, but take your time to go through the whole street. Even at busy times that should not take more than 30 minutes to one hour, and then get back to the ones you like to make your purchase. A lot of people were there to just take pictures, but when you stopped to take a photo, the person at the stall would try to sell you a flower pot. Just so you know.
On the temple grounds.
1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Iriya Station – 3 minutes walk (Hibiya line)
Uguisudani Station – 5 minutes walk (Yamanote line, Keihintohoku line)
Opening hours: 6:00 to 23:00
Web: http://www.asagao-maturi.com/ (official website of the Morning-Glory Festival in Japanese)
When to best visit? 6, 7 and 8 July during the morning hours
Why visit? biggest morning-glory flower market in Japan with a long history
Name in Japanese: 入谷朝顔まつり（朝顔市）