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This article will introduce the Hozuki Market, an annual event in Asakusa dedicated to the hozuki, or Chinese-lantern plant. This event also marks the beginning of summer! Why not stop by to see these colorful lantern-like plants in a festive atmosphere?
When summer kicks off in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple is bustling with activity. However, the summer festivities here are slightly different.
If you visit the temple, you'll notice people coming and going carrying nursery plants. These are called "hozuki" and bear fruit that resembles a red-colored lantern.
During this season, Sensoji Temple holds the annual Hozuki Market (Hozuki Ichi).
The Hozuki Market is an event held at temples and shrines throughout Japan. Potted hozuki (Chinese-lantern plant) blessed by the temple are sold here. Visitors often purchase the plants as lucky charms and display them in their homes.
The area is lined with many hozuki plants, making a stroll enjoyable while admiring these seasonal delights. This is one of many charms of the Japanese summer.
Additionally, the Hozuki Market symbolizes the end of the rainy season and the arrival of summertime.
In fact, hozuki plants bear fruit from the spring until fall. The brightly red-colored "lanterns" are actually the cup of the flower. If you take a peek inside, you'll find round fruit berries.
During ancient times, children would have fun using this fruit as a whistle.
Since ancient times in Japan, red-colored objects have been considered a sign of good luck and symbolic of warding off evil. For these same reasons, Japanese families used to hang dark-red corn from the ceiling of their homes to protect against lightning.
This corn was sold during the Edo Period (1603-1868). However, poor corn harvests during the early part of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) resulted in hozuki plants being sold instead.
Hozuki Markets are held in various regions of Japan. However, the Sensoji Temple Hozuki Market is one of the most famous events nationwide.
The Hozuki Market in Asakusa is held annually on July 9 and 10. It was originally held on July 10. Unexpectedly, swarms of visitors made it a challenge for the market staff to put on the event. So, it eventually became a two-day affair.
According to Japanese belief, offering a prayer at Sensoji Temple on July 10 will bring the worshipper 46,000 days' worth of good luck (the equivalent of 126 years)! Apparently, 46,000 represents the number of rice grains in one "sho" (an ancient Japanese unit of measure).
Every year large crowds descend on the market. Many come in search of special signs and amulets related to July 9 and 10. During these two days, the temple precincts are lined with over 100 vendor stalls.
The hozuki seedlings sold at the market are all priced at 2,500 yen. The key is to look for healthy hozuki bearing lots of fruit. You'll sense the changing seasons as you watch them gradually change color.
When buying a potted hozuki plant, it's also a good idea to pick up a cute wind chime. The chime makes a gentle, soothing sound when displayed at home and begins blowing in the wind.
Wind chimes were traditionally red and known for their power to ward off evil. That is why these chimes were eventually sold with hozuki plants.
For visitors unable to take a potted plant home, you can purchase hozuki branches and the fruit, which is beautifully arranged in a basket (see photos below). These are a variety different from the potted plants and are characterized by their large fruit.
After returning home, you can enjoy the hozuki in their present condition for a long time.
Hozuki Branches: Starting at 1,000 yen and up
Let's choose our favorite hozuki, put it in our basket, then make our way home.
Hozuki Fruit in a Basket: Starting at 500 yen and up
Hozuki plants are beautiful interior adornments when displayed just as they are. There are also edible hozuki, but the ones sold at the market are all ornamental.
The Sensoji Hozuki Market stays open in the evening but closes when all the plants are sold. If you're hoping to buy a plant, we recommend heading here in the daytime.
This article is a revised edition originally published in July 2015.
All photos from PIXTA