Great Balls O’ Flowery Fluff: Tokyo’s Best Hydrangea Gardens

If someone says “hydrangeas” and you think “boring white puffballs,” you haven’t seen the outrageous ones in Tokyo yet! Here are my favorite hydrangea garden extravaganzas, and they’ll be blooming ’til the end of June, just sayin’…

HAKUSAN SHRINE in Hon-Komagome

These are just the ones bordering the parking lot at the shrine!

These are just the ones bordering the parking lot at the shrine!

During the Ajisai Festival (the second week in June very year) the fu-dogs greet visitors with a crazy bouquet of living hydrangeas.

During the Ajisai Festival (the second week in June very year) the fu-dogs greet visitors with a crazy bouquet of living hydrangeas.

The purifying spring is all decked out in hydrangea finery as well.

The purifying spring is all decked out in hydrangea finery as well.

And of course they sell hydrangea-themed sweets! This is mizu-yokan, a sort of jellied bean paste that is popular in summertime.

And of course they sell hydrangea-themed sweets! This is mizu-yokan, a sort of jellied bean paste that is popular in summertime.

Hours: Open 24 hours

Open: Every day of the year. The Ajisai Festival is from June 6 – 14 in 2015, but you can see the hydrangeas blooming through the whole month of June

Admission: Free

Map

HONDO-JI TEMPLE in Kitakogane

This temple is a little outside of Tokyo – about 25 minutes from Kita-Senju – but it's well worth the train ride to see the acres of bodacious blooms!

This temple is a little outside of Tokyo – about 25 minutes from Kita-Senju – but it’s well worth the train ride to see the acres of bodacious blooms!

Plus: pagoda

Plus: pagoda

The grounds are really huge, and this bamboo forest sits next to the iris garden, which may still be blooming while you're there.

The grounds are really huge, and this bamboo forest sits next to the iris garden, which may still be blooming while you’re there.

Shady flower-lined paths? Check!

Shady flower-lined paths? Check!

Hydrangeas + thick carpets of moss = YES

Hydrangeas + thick carpets of moss = YES

Hours: 8:00 – 17:00

Open: Every day

Admission: ¥500 during hydrangea season (June)

Map

ASUKAYAMA PARK/OJI STATION in Oji

The famous banks of hydrangeas are not actually in the park – they border the train tracks between the park and Oji Station. Stairways lead down to the path from the park, though, and you can easily get there from any direction.

The famous banks of hydrangeas are not actually in the park – they border the train tracks between the park and Oji Station. Stairways lead down to the path from the park, though, and you can easily get there from any direction.

The flowers here are mostly the old-fashioned kind, but they bloom in every color, and the display stretches for the entire length of Asukayama Park.

The flowers here are mostly the old-fashioned kind, but they bloom in every color, and the display stretches for the entire length of Asukayama Park.

The colors are really exquisite up close.

The colors are really exquisite up close.

My favorites are the traditional Japanese blue ones

My favorites are the traditional Japanese blue ones

Hours: Open 24 hours

Open: Every day of the year.

Admission: Free

Map

TAKAHATA FUDOSAN TEMPLE in Takahatafudo

This temple has a huge

This temple has a huge “hydrangea mountain” criss-crossed with nicely-groomed hiking paths and planted with many varieties of hydrangeas

It's shady and cool, even in the dog days of June

It’s shady and cool, even in the dog days of June

And in case you haven't gotten around to making that famous (and arduous) Shikoku temple pilgrimage, the paths on the hydrangea mountain are populated by Jizo figures from each of the 88 temples on the circuit. Shortcut to paradise? Sign me up!

And in case you haven’t gotten around to making that famous (and arduous) Shikoku temple pilgrimage, the paths on the hydrangea mountain are populated by Jizo figures from each of the 88 temples on the circuit. Shortcut to paradise? Sign me up!

Interesting varieties bloom in big clumps...

Interesting varieties bloom in big clumps…

...or dotted about like little wild origami

…or dotted about like little wild origami

Shrines like this Inari fox shrine are tucked in among the flowers

Shrines like this Inari fox shrine are tucked in among the flowers

And of course, you get to see Takahata Fudo's gorgeous pagoda while you're there to see the flowers!

And of course, you get to see Takahata Fudo’s gorgeous pagoda while you’re there to see the flowers!

Hours: Open 24 hours

Open: Every day of the year.

Admission: Free

Map

And of course, I have to mention the two famous hydrangea temples in nearby Kamakura…

HASEDERA TEMPLE in Kamakura

Every kind of hydrangea you can imagine greets the waiting crowds at the foot of Hasedera temple's ajisai mountain

Every kind of hydrangea you can imagine greets the waiting crowds at the foot of Hasedera temple’s ajisai mountain

Stairs climb up through the flowers on the steep hillside behind the temple

Stairs climb up through the flowers on the steep hillside behind the temple

You can sort of see why it's famous

You can sort of see why it’s famous

A waterfall of lace-caps engulfs a stone mini-pagoda

A waterfall of lace-caps engulfs a stone mini-pagoda

There are quiet nooks adorned with ajisai too.

There are quiet nooks adorned with ajisai too.

Hours: 8:00 – 17:00

Open: Every day

Admission: ¥500

Map

MEIGETSU-IN TEMPLE in Kitakamakura

The famous steps leading into the temple

The famous steps leading into the temple

Hydrangeas and bamboo

Hydrangeas and bamboo

Hours: 8:00 – 17:00

Open: Every day

Admission: ¥300

Map

Jonelle Patrick is the author of the Only In Tokyo mystery series, now out for the first time in paperback

FooterIDOLnew12

A Japanese pop star is swept away in the tsunami following a devastating earthquake, and her fans erupt in a frenzy of mourning. In the wake of the disaster, Detective Kenji Nakamura is sent to investigate a death at a local shrine, but…read more