The spring rainy season isn’t the most delightful time to be in Japan…unless you’re hiking through a shady forest, surrounded by heaps and heaps of blue hydrangeas! Minamisawa Ajisai Mountain’s groomed trails wind up the side of a mountain, through a silent and stately cedar forest that’s robed in countless poufs of cooling blue and violet flowers from mid-June to late July. Walking through this forest reminded me of its autumnal counterpart in Koma, where higanbana (red amaryllis) bloom in glorious profusion amid tall trees (except the hydrangea goodness goes on for a month, not just a week!)
Hydrangeas grow wild in Japan, but not in this kind of dizzying profusion. So…where did these all come from?
We found out that the patriarch of the family that has lived on this land for generations wanted to make it a pleasant experience for his family to visit his grave after he’s gone, so he began to plant flowers that bloom around the traditional summer grave-visiting time. As you can see, it succeeded beyond his wildest dreams! The current generation continues to plant more varieties, the original visionary is visited and thanked by all, and the hydrangea forest becomes ever more splendid with each passing year.
Every day (but if you want to hike amid the blooming hydrangeas, you should go sometime between mid-June and late July. These photos were taken at the beginning of July.)
Hours: 8:00 – 20:00
This place is surprisingly close to Tokyo (it takes about an hour and 15 minutes from Shinjuku Station). The closest station is Musashi-itsukaichi, and you’ll have to take a cab from there into the mountains (it’s about 3 km, on a narrow and somewhat winding road). Here’s a map, to give you an idea:
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“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!