Choyo (Chrysanthemum Festival) (重陽)

Choyo is a festival observed annually on September 9 as one of the five seasonal festivals in Japan. It is also called "Kiku no Sekku" (the Chrysanthemum Festival), since it's held in the season of the chrysanthemum, according to the old calendar.

According to inyo-shiso (a Chinese ideology of dual cosmic forces, the active and passive), odd numbers are regarded as active numbers, among which the number nine is the ultimate, so that dual nine (September 9) means the highest level of activeness and is written in Chinese characters as "cho" (meaning "doubled") and "yo" (meaning "activeness"). Any month and date of dual odd numbers was considered ominous due to its extraordinary active energy. In order to expel such inauspicious energy, the Sekku Festival was performed especially with a heavy load caused by the number nine, which is the highest single-digit odd number. Subsequently, however, the interpretation of the duality of active numbers has become an auspicious omen to be celebrated.

In the hope of eliminating evils and achieving longevity, people celebrated the Choyo Festival by decorating their houses with flowers of chrysanthemum and pouring sake for each other with corollas of chrysanthemum floating on them. Additionally, people had the custom of cleansing their bodies with wet cotton that had been placed on chrysanthemums to draw up the evening dew prior to the day of the Choyo Festival. Today, however, this custom is practiced in fewer occasions than the other Sekku festivals.

In China, Emperor Cao Pi of the Wei Dynasty (during the Three States period) was reported to have presented chrysanthemum flowers to Zhong Yao (a Chinese calligrapher and politician of the Wei Dynasty) according to the "Yiwenleiju" (a Chinese encyclopedia, literally "Collection of Literature Arranged by Categories").

Along with the above-mentioned custom of using chrysanthemum, people would dangle bags containing berries of sansho (Japanese pepper) and go on picnic to suburban hills or other high places offering distant views, in an activity called "toko" (literally, "climbing to a height").

Choyo festivals in Japan

Since the Heian period, people have been accustomed to drinking kikuka-shu (literally, "sake of chrysanthemum flower," a liquor made from chrysanthemum, rice, millet, etc.).

Two haiku poems of Basho MATSUO
Kusa no to ya, higurete kuresi, kiku no sake (Sunset beyond the grassy doors of my hut, a great spot to sip chrysanthemum sake)
Yamanaka ya, kiku wa taoranu, yu no nioi (With chrysanthemum unplucked, breathes fragrance of a hot spring at Yamanaka spa): a haiku composed by Basho MATSUO in his anthology "Oku no Hosomichi," in praise of the hot spring at the Yamanaka onsen (spa).

[Original Japanese]