Where To See The Most Divine Lotus Blossoms In Tokyo

Most flower seasons in Japan are like hitting the jackpot, but lotus season is more of a treasure hunt. Instead of fields of I-can’t-believe-my-eyes color, you have to hunt for the sublime pinkness amid a sea of green.

But when you find it…

<swoon!>

Lotus flowers open at first light, are at their best from about 7:00 to 9:00, then they close up again, so it pays to strap on your alarm clock and be up with the birds if you want to see them at their finest. But they bloom rain or shine, and they’re the one flower that’s always more beautiful in the rain. They start blooming in mid-July, and keep on ’til mid-August, so there’s plenty of time to get out and catch a little heavenly bliss.

Here are the very best places to see them, in and around Tokyo…

TOKYO UNIVERSITY INSTITUTE OF AGRO-ECOSUSTAINABLE SERVICES near Tanashi Station

I know this doesn’t sound like the most promising of garden experiences, but…these.

This beauty was grown from 2000-year-old seeds discovered in Chiba prefecture

Everywhere you look, achingly beautiful flowers, as big as dinner plates

Perfect, eggshell-thin petals of single varieties

…to fluffy blushing ballerinas

Each hybrid is more extravagant than the last

This one has the charming name of “Moon Smile”

And I could barely tear myself away from this white specimen with the thinnest of pink edging

This stunner was bred at the Institute itself, and is a cross between a pink Japanese variety and a yellow American one

You can walk among the lotus, which are growing in raised beds. This is a truly rare opportunity to get close enough to the flowers to take great pictures of them (without getting your feet hecka muddy), even if you don’t have a fancy camera with a big lens

But you’ll have to go quick, to see this year’s display! This is the last week the collection will be open to the public until next year. Their website (in Japanese) is here.

Lotus exhibition opening days: June 11 – July 19 (2019), Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:45 – 10:45, plus a special final opening day on Saturday, July 20 from 7:00 – 11:00

Admission: Free

MAP

SHINOBAZU POND in Ueno Park, near Ueno Station

Filled with classic pink lotus, there’s a nice boardwalk at the west end of the pond that loops out among the flowers

And across the sea of lotus, a classic view of the Shinobazu-no-ike Benten-do Temple

And if you’re like me, there are few things more satisfying in the world than watching raindrops collect on lotus leaves until they spill:

Open: Every day

Hours: no limit to access

Admission: Free

MAP

SANKEI-EN GARDEN in Yokohama, near Negishi Station

This garden offers special early opening hours from July 13 – August 4 (2019), so you can enjoy the blooms at their absolute peak.

The lotus flowers in this garden are breathtakingly beautiful

And there are several different varieties, hiding amongst the shady leaves

Set in one of the most lovely of stroll gardens…

…there are plenty of flowers to go around

But the best part of the early opening hours are the crazy lotus leaf exhibits!

There’s a table at the end nearest the entrance where they’ll cut you your very own lotus stem bubble pipe!

Sankei-en’s early opening lotus program: 6:00 – 8:30 am, only on Saturdays, Sundays & national holidays

When: July 13 – August 4 (2019)

Garden admission: ¥700 (Early lotus hours and demonstrations are free once you’re in the gate)

MAP with step-by-step directions for getting to the garden from Negishi station

KORAKU-EN GARDEN near Korakuen Station

Koraku-en garden has a small patch of traditional pink lotus

They’re right by the little bridge near the entrance.

The lotus display at Koraku-en Garden isn’t grand, but it’s set in a lovely place, and after viewing the flowers, you can stroll through the rest of the garden, which is one of my very favorite walks, in any season.

Open: Every day except 12/29-1/3

Hours: 9:00 – 17:00

Admission: ¥300

MAP

You can also find lotus flowers blooming at many temples, because lotus have special meaning in Buddhist theology. The ethereally pristine flowers soar high above their muddy roots, symbolizing the way enlightened pure thought transforms and transcends its origins in mundane everyday existence.

I saw this one growing in a pot near where I used to live, in Toritsu-daigaku

Until she reaches lotus-like enlightenment, Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

For nine years, Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura thought his mother’s death was an accident. Then he gets a call, and his life begins to unravel. Because if it wasn’t an accident…what was it? Read more