As you drive down Yanbaru or the southern part of Okinawa Island at night late in autumn, you encounter a field that glares dreadfully. The light is on all over the area, with a brightness that makes you wonder what might be happening. Even from a plane, this lighted field of chrysanthemum can be seen sparkling brightly and beautifully to our eyes.
Chrysanthemum (to be exact, there exists a winter type and an autumn type; the latter in this case) senses its own season to flower and bloom as the summer ends and the days get shorter. Artificially-lighted chrysanthemum cultivation takes advantage of this property to control its timing of blooming. It has been about ten years1 since this cultivation holds a major place in Okinawan agriculture. To be specific, light is put on for about 2 to 3 hours every night, starting from October when the days start to get shorter, in order to fool (?) the chrysanthemum as if the days are still as long as summer. You might doubt what a light can do…yet, it is the brightness of a 100-watt bulb hung every 3 meters on the field. Not only the flowers but even a man would believe it’s daytime. Hence the chrysanthemum is adjusted so that it blooms right when its demands increase in mainland Japan, at the year-end or the equinoctial week2 in March. Especially for the latter period, 80% of the chrysanthemum purchased is said to be artificially lighted chrysanthemum grown in Okinawa.
It’s mainly produced at Iejima, Gushikawa, Nago, and Itoman in Okinawa. Over 90% is shipped out and there is hardly any consumption inside the prefecture.
- Article written in 1999. In 2022 today, the production and shipping amount of chrysanthemums in Okinawa is second in Japan, next to Aichi. The major production site of today is Itoman, Okinawa city, Yaese, Uruma, Nakijin, Nago, Kumejima and Yomitan.
- Called the Higan week, people visit the tombs of ancestors to hold memorial services. Chrysanthemum is often employed as the offering.