Every year, as the leaves start to change from green to red, orange and yellow for the fall, Nihonmatsu City hosts a large exhibit on their castle grounds. This event is called the Chrysanthemum Doll Exhibit, and true to its name provides a vast array of Chrysanthemums for visitors to admire. The most unique part of the exhibit, however, is the scenes from Japanese history that have been recreated using dolls made out of flowers.
This year, the event runs from October 10th until November 23rd, giving visitors over a month to view this display. The weeks leading up to the opening day are busy building wooden structures and displays from scratch, if that is any indication of how much work goes into this annual event. Located on Nihonmatsu Castle grounds (Kasumigajo), there is plenty of parking and a great opportunity to visit the castle at the same time.
At the ticket entrance, there is a line of yattai (food stalls) set up with various types of food available. In order to enter the exhibit, you need to purchase a ticket from the vending machine for 700 yen and hand it to the staff at the entrance. It is only valid for a day, but you are more than welcome to come and go as you please during their opening hours between 9am and 4pm.
True to the name, this event has over 950 Chrysanthemums on display, with over a dozen different varieties of the flower. Some of the Chrysanthemums have been arranged in various ways, including teased from a single bush into a mushroom shape, arranged in a teardrop shape, or styled to look like animals such as butterflies and elephants.
Of course, the main attraction of the event are the dolls made out of Chrysanthemums. More than a random collection of life-size dolls, they are all arranged to display different scenes in Japanese history. They even included painted backgrounds, props such as life-size horses, and famous buildings.
The exhibit also includes a petting zoo with a goat, a few rabbits and many fluffy, yellow chicks. The petting zoo hours are restricted, but there is a rest area nearby for those who would like to relax and enjoy the view of a peaceful waterfall as they wait.
Touring the exhibit can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour or more, depending on how much time you spend. The visit is worth the time, however, as you can also visit the rest of the castle grounds for free. Set on a hill, Nihonmatsu Castle offers a great view of the city and occupies a large area to explore with ponds, waterfalls and beautiful flowers.
Although this is an annual event held from mid-October to the end of November, I recommend going toward the end of October or early November to catch the fall colors as a backdrop to the bright flashy colors of the Chrysanthemums!