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Five Japanese flower seasons that will make you happy you missed the cherry blossoms

If you have to postpone your Japan trip and miss the cherry blossoms this spring, don’t despair! There are other flower seasons you can catch after the current contagion dies down that deliver just as much flowers-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see amazement, without the crowds. If eye-popping flowers are what you’re longing to see, here are my five favorites, that burst into gorgeousness later in the year.

Mid-late April

AZALEAS!

Pinkness of a different sort

I once asked a Japanese friend why azalea season wasn’t celebrated a much as the cherry blossoms, and her answer was, “Because they last too long.” This, however, is only a downside if you’re a haiku poet jonesing for a subtle reference to the fleeting nature of life. For the rest of us, hillsides paved with solid red, magenta, purple and white are eye candy of epic proportions.

If you need more convincing, these.

Ni-no-maru garden, in Tokyo
Nezu Shrine, in Tokyo
Jindai Botanical Gardens, half an hour from Shinjuku Station, in Chofu

Click here for photos, info and maps to the six most amazing places to see azaleas in Tokyo.

Early May 

WISTERIA!

Everybody’s got photos of cherry blossoms, but how many people do you know who’ve seen this? (At Ashikaga Flower Park, an easy day trip from Tokyo)
Or walked across a bridge like this? (Ashikaga Flower Park)
Or taken I-am-definitely-in-Japan pix like this? (Kameido Tenjin Shrine, in Tokyo)

Japanese gardeners must have wizarding skills, because they can make wisteria bloom in ways that are magical. Here are eight places to see over-the-top wisteria in Tokyo with info & maps.

Early to mid-May

SHIBAZAKURA!

How do they manage to make it bloom so perfectly, with no holes in the patterns? (Hitsujiyama Park, in Chichibu)

You’ve probably never heard of shibazakura, but if you visit one of the places where they plant whole landscapes of it, I can guarantee you’ll never forget it.

At Hitsujiyama Park, in Chichibu

This carpet o’ flowers blooms for pretty much the whole month of May, and although the areas with enough real estate to stage something like this are a little outside of Tokyo, you can easily see them in a day trip. Here’s where to see excellent shibazakura.

Early to mid-May

BABY BLUE EYES!

Pink. It’s so last millennium (Hitachi Seeaside Park, in Hitachi)

Masses of flowers don’t have to be pink to be mesmerizing. These hillsides covered with Baby Blue Eyes (called nemophila, in Japan) deliver the kind of delightful punch you get the first time you see the fluffy pink trees, but without the three-ring-circus of The Season.

At Hitachi Seeaside Park, in Hitachi

Am I right, or am I right? Here’s where you can see hillsides covered with Baby Blue Eyes (and more) in an easy day trip from Tokyo, at Hitachi Seaside park.

Late September

RED AMARYLLIS!

This place feels like an enchanted forest when the higanbana bloom (Kinchakuda, near Koma Station)

These native Japanese amaryllis (called higanbana) bloom in vermilion profusion, as far as the eye can see, at a huge riverside park that’s within an hour of Tokyo. Over five million bulbs burst forth like this around the fall equinox, and I think you’ll agree that they easily rival the cherry blossoms in their splendor.

Meandering paths lined with knee-high amaryllis take you through fields of red that go on and on and on
Up close, they’re gorgeous too (at Kinchakuda, near Koma Station)

Here’s where to see the enchanted forest of gorgeous red higanbana.

And guess what? If you can’t reschedule your trip when these five are blooming, there are lots more!

Nearly every month of the year offers spectacular flowers that will quell your regrets that you missed the famous pink ones. Click here to see them all:

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

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