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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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
4 thoughts on “The Enchanted Hydrangea Forest”
Putting this on my list! A hydrangea forest is what we need to get over the rainy season.
Are you suffering too, where you are? Why did the rainy season have to slip so far into July? It’s totally cramping my franting about! lol
Beautiful! I grew up with hydrangeas and have always loved them 🙂
My sistah in hydrangea love! I never get tired of seeing them. The hybrids in Japan are the one thing that make me want to sneak past the California prohibition on bringing in any plant material—they have such gorgeous varieties I can’t get in the States. If only they didn’t have that diligent little Agriculture Beagle that’s always on duty in Baggage Claim…