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The Hydrangea (紫陽花, アジサイ, ajisai ) is a popular flower in Japan. Native hydrangea varieties have been mentioned in Japanese written records from the 8th century, while European varieties were introduced in the early 20th century. Hydrangeas typically bloom during the rainy season in June and July, making them a symbol and the most popular flower of the season which generally sees considerably less flowers than the preceding spring season.

There are over 100 varieties of hydrangeas of various colors in Japan today, include those that bloom into balls of flowers and those whose flowers surround a bald patch. Relatively easy to grow, hydrangeas are commonly seen in parks and private gardens. Some temples are known for their hydrangea gardens and are popular places to see large numbers of flowers in a picturesque setting. Note that the flowers are often cut prematurely to ensure a good flowering in the following year.

Popular spots in central Tokyo

Asukayama Park

Short walk from the south exit of Oji Station, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line
At the base of Asukayama Park is the Asuka-no-komichi path that runs parallel to the train tracks. The approximately 400 meter long walking path is lined with thousands of hydrangea flowers, and thanks to the path's proximity to the train tracks, the ajisai can also be seen from the trains that pass near Oji Station. The best viewing period is typically in the second half of June.

Hakusan Shrine

Five minute walk from Hakusan Station, Mita Subway Line
Hakusan Shrine and adjacent Hakusan Park are home to about 3000 hydrangea flowers that are typically at their best from mid to late June. The shrine is host to the Bunkyo Ajisai Festival which is held for a week around mid June, after which most of the flowers are cut to prepare the plants for the following year's season.

Sumida Park

Short walk from Asakusa Station, Ginza and Asakusa subway lines and Tobu Railway
Sumida Park runs parallel to the Sumida River and is a popular place to see seasonal flowers in combination with Tokyo Skytree across the river. Also a popular cherry blossom spot in spring, the park features thousands of hydrangea flowers usually at their best around mid June.

Popular spots near Tokyo

Fuchu City, Tokyo

Kyodo-no-mori Museum

10 minutes by bus from Bubaigawara Station, JR Nambu Line and Keio Line
The Kyodo-no-mori Museum in the western outskirts of Tokyo is a museum with an emphasis on the history of Fuchu City. The museum has a large park that makes up more than half of the grounds and features about 10,000 ajisai flowers. The flowers are mainly found around the main street not far from the entrance and along the southern end of the grounds. An ajisai festival is held for a month starting from late May, and the hydrangeas are usually best seen in the later half of June.

Hakone Tozan Railway

Section between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora stations
The section of the Hakone Tozan Railway between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora is lined with thousands of hydrangeas that blossom in June and July. The flowers can be see from the train and around the stations. In the evenings they are illuminated, and special trains are operated for the viewing of the lit-up flowers.

Meigetsuin Temple (Ajisaidera)

Ten minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station, JR Yokosuka Line
Meigetsuin Temple's unofficial name is Ajisaidera ("hydrangea temple") due to the many hydrangeas that blossom on the temple's grounds usually from mid to late June. It is one of Kamakura's most popular and famous places to visit during the ajisai season when the approximately 2500 flowers turn part of the grounds into different shades of blue.

Hasedera Temple

Short walk from Hase Station, Enoden Railway
Hasedera Temple is surrounded by flora, and seasonal flowers can be seen through most of the year, giving it the nickname Kamakura's Western Pure Land Paradise. In June, thousands of hydrangeas line the path that leads up the steep hillside behind the temple's main hall. Expect waiting times during the peak of the season.

Riverside and Nichihonji Temple in Tako Town

30 minutes by bus from Narita Airport
Not too far from Narita Airport in Tako Town, about 10,000 ajisai flowers line the banks of the Kuriyama River next to the "Michi-no-eki Tako" roadside station. Visitors can walk along the riverbank or ride sightseeing boats that operate during the flowering season. Located 1.5 kilometers northeast of the roadside station, Nichihonji Temple has another 10,000 hydrangea flowers along the wooded approach to the temple's main building. The flowers in both places are usually at their best around mid June.

Shimoda Park

10 minutes by bus from Izukyu-Shimoda Station, Izukyu Railway Line
Shimoda Park is a wooded park on a hill that offers views of the town and coast. The main trail through the park is lined with thousands of hydrangea flowers, and performances and food trucks provide additional entertainment during the weekends in the month of June. The best time to view the ajisai is usually during the later half of June.

Popular spots in and around Kyoto

Yoshiminedera Temple

30 minutes by bus from Mukomachi (JR Tokaido Line) or Higashi Mukomachi (Hankyu Kyoto Line) stations
Yoshiminedera Temple is a temple in the mountains in the outskirts west of central Kyoto. Thousands of hydrangeas line the slopes of the garden at the northern end of the temple grounds. The ajisai season at Yoshiminedera Temple is typically from mid June to early July.

Mimurotoji Temple

15 minutes on foot from Keihan Mimurodo Station, Keihan Uji Line
Mimurotoji Temple is a temple in Uji known for its flowers. The large garden at the base of the temple has a variety of seasonal flora like azaleas and hydrangeas. The hydrangea season is typically from early June to early July, and the garden is illuminated in the evenings during the weekends in June.
North of central Kyoto

Sanzenin Temple

25 minutes by bus from Kokusaikaikan Station (Karasuma Subway Line), followed by a 10 minute walk from the bus stop
Sanzenin is a temple in the rural town of Ohara, which is popular for its autumn colors. The temple has a hydrangea garden past the main building and the moss garden. The ajisai season here is typically around mid June to early July.

Umenomiya Taisha

10 minute walk from Matsuo Taisha Station, Hankyu Arashiyama Line
Umenomiya Taisha is a quiet shrine in western Kyoto. A paid garden surrounds the northern half of the shrine grounds and is filled with seasonal flora. About 60 varieties of hydrangeas can be found in the garden that result in an extended viewing season from late May to July with the peak of the season around mid June. The bulk of the ajisai can be found in the northern end of the garden, closer to the plum grove.

Other famous spots

Gamagori

Kataoka Onsen Ajisai-no-Sato

15 minutes by bus from Gamagori Station, JR Tokaido Line
Ajisai-no-Sato is a hydrangea park in Gamagori City which is about a 45 minute train ride from Nagoya. The park is only open during the month of June when around 50,000 ajisai flowers are in bloom. The park is illuminated in the evenings.