Each season in Japan has a unique charm. All over the country, its nature and landscapes impress with bursts of color and blooms. The transitory state of each season’s beauty makes it an event that people look forward to, but in any case, regardless of your trip’s schedule, nature will spoil you. There are different types of flowers in bloom all throughout the year. Here’s what you can expect at any given point in time:
Japanese Flowers in Winter: January to March
Rapeseed / Nanohana
Northern regions of Japan may be covered in snow, but down south you will be treated to yellow carpets of rapeseed blooms or Nanohana as early as January. Nanohana is the young spring shoots of what will eventually become vegetables similar to broccoli, which has many uses and is widely eaten in Japan. The countryside is where these plants are usually grown. From roadsides to farm fields, Nanohana brings a lot of sunshine in the midst of winter.
Places for viewing Nanohana:
Kaimon Sanroku Nature Park (Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture)
The annual Ibusuki Rapeseed Blossom Marathon Race is held here every January in which time the flowers are in full bloom around Ikeda Lake and with the magnificent view of Mt. Kaimondake and its conical peak in the background.
Address: 2626 Kaimonjutcho Ibusuki-shi Kagoshima-ken
Website: http://www.ibusuki.or.jp/tourism/play/kaimonpark/ (Japanese only)
Mother Farm (Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture)
Mother Farm boasts of the largest display of rapeseed blooms in Kanto Region. Around 3.5 million flowers peak from mid-February to mid-April, and on top of the scenery, you can also enjoy a host of farm-related activities including sheep herding demonstrations, fruit and vegetable picking, and horseback riding.
Address: 940-3 Tagura, Futtsu, Chiba
Price: ¥1500 (Adult) and ¥800 (Child)
Plum Blossoms / Ume
Ume of plum blossoms may have been overshadowed by cherry blossoms’ popularity but they are just as beautiful. In fact, the age-old tradition of Hanami or flower viewing was originally practiced in the context of plum blossoms and not Sakura when it first started during the Nara Period (710-794). These flowers serve as the precursor to spring with its first buds showing in February. Their colors range from white to dark pink with a strong sweet fragrance, while the actual fruit is usually eaten or fermented to make wine.
Places for viewing Ume:
Minabe Bairin (Minabe, Wakayama Prefecture)
Minabe Bairin is dubbed as Japan’s #1 Ume orchard where nearly 80,000 fragrant plum trees decorate its mountainside from February to March. During this time, various events are also held for visitors to enjoy from musical performances to tea ceremony activities.
Address: Oshine Minabe, Hidaka District, Wakayama Prefecture
Website: http://www.aikis.or.jp/~minabe/event/kanbai/minabe/index.html (Japanese only)
Kairakuen (Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Kairakuen is regarded to be one of the three greatest gardens in all of Japan. The local lord Tokugawa Nariaki built it for the public in 1841, and since then it has enjoyed popularity in particular during the season of plum blossoms. Every year from February 20 to March 31, the garden holds the Mito Plum Festival where 3,000 trees of 100 Ume varieties show off their sweet scent and elegant beauty.
Address: 1-1251 Migawa, Mito, Ibaraki
Japanese Flowers in Spring: Late March to May
Cherry Blossoms / Sakura
Sakura is Japan’s most iconic flower and when they start to bloom, it is officially springtime. All over the country, these flowers are eagerly anticipated that there are even forecasts for it. To many, it is the most beautiful time in Japan, and the fact that its blossoms only last for a little over a week makes people cherish it even more. In this brief period of time, the Japanese hold Hanami parties where they lay out their mats to eat and drink with families and friends under the cover of delicate flowers.
Places for viewing Sakura:
Ueno Onshi Koen Park (Ueno, Tokyo)
There are multiple cherry blossoms viewing spots in the capital city but the most beloved one would be in Ueno’s public park. Thousands of cherry trees line up the park’s main path that is also adorned with paper lanterns so that people can enjoy the flowers and hold picnics from day to night.
Address: 5-20 Ueno Park, Taito, Tokyo
Maruyama Park (Higashiyama, Kyoto)
Maruyama Park is the Ueno Park equivalent of Japan’s Imperial capital city when it comes to viewing cherry blossoms. Particularly beautiful is the tall weeping cherry tree at the center, which stays illuminated until 1 AM for Hanami parties.
Address: Maruyamacho, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto
Moss Phlox / Shibazakura
Shibazakura are like cherry blossoms but on land. They bloom from mid-April to late May and when they do, they blanket the ground entirely with pink hues.
Places for viewing Shibazakura:
Fuji Motosuko Resort (Fuji Five Lakes area, Yamanashi Prefecture)
During the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, the commanding view of Mt. Fuji unusually competes for people’s attention with the pink-covered grounds near Lake Motosu. More than 800,000 tiny Shibazakura bring color to 2.4 hectares of land, and in case you get tired from all that walking, you can take a break and enjoy the region’s most delicious cuisine at the Mt. Fuji Delicious Foods Festival simultaneously held within the festival premises.
Address: 212 Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru, Yamanashi
Price: ¥600 (Adult – 13 years & above), ¥250 (Children from 3–12 years old), ¥210 (Children below 3)
Hitsujiyama Park (Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture)
Another popular destination for Shibazakura is Saitama’s Hitsujiyama Park during the Chichibu Shibazakura Festival held during mid-April until early May. Situated on hilly terrain, the nicest views are witnessed from the top of the hill where the bold patterns created by the different colors of these flowers are most noticeable.
Address: 6630 Omiya, Chichibu, Saitama
Price: ¥300 (Adult), ¥250 (Senior), Free (Children ages 15 & below)
Website: http://www.sainokuni-kanko.jp/eng/sightseeingspot/023.html (Japanese only)
Nemophila flowers are the kind of blues that will make you happy. Individually, they are tiny but in some parts of Japan, they make land look like a sea by dominating it with blue.
Places for viewing Nemophila:
Hitachi Seaside Park (Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture)
On a clear spring day, the fields of nemophila rival the blueness of the sky and the Pacific Ocean nearby. In this park, there are about 4.5 million of these small flowers planted on rolling hills of Miharashi no Oka.
Address: 605-4 Onuma-aza, Mawatari, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki
Price: ¥410 (Adult), ¥80 (Children from 7-14 years old), Free (Children ages 6 & below)
Wisteria / Fuji
Wisteria makes dream-like landscapes with its flowering vines hanging from its tree branches. It is a plant endemic to only a few countries in the world and in Japan, it is more popularly known as Fuji. Not to be confused with Japan’s iconic mountain, Wisteria is found in many parts of Japan enchanting those who come to see them from late April to mid-May.
Places for viewing Fuji:
Ashikaga Flower Park (Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture)
In 2014, CNN Travel included this park in its list of 9 Dream Destinations in the world. It is the most popular place for Wisteria especially famous for its 150-year-old tree with trellises that can cover a 600-tatami space.
Address: 607 Hasama-cho, Ashikaga, Tochigi
Price: Admission fees vary depending on the season. For more information, please visit their website.
Kawachi Fuji Gardens (Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture)
Kawachi Fuji Gardens is a private property only opened to the public during Wisteria season in spring and maple leaf season in autumn. Its popularity has recently skyrocketed as pictures of its Wisteria draped tunnels circulated the Internet, and as of 2016, an advanced booking system is implemented to control the influx of guests during this peak season.
Address: 2 chome-2-48 Kawachi, Yahatahigashi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Price: Admission fees vary depending on the condition of the flowers. For more information, please visit their website.
Website: http://kawachi-fujien.com (Japanese only)
Japanese Flowers in Summer: June to August
Iris / Hanashoubu
Iris is a beloved plant in Japan since the ancient times. It is believed to be a flower of protection to drive away evil spirits, and in the case of warriors, it’s usually used as a design emblem in their armor or clothing. It is also a popular motif in many Japanese artworks from kimono designs to paintings.
The best time to view irises is from mid-June to early July in many gardens and temples all over the country.
Places for viewing Iris:
Horokiri Iris Garden (Katsushika, Tokyo)
Horokiri Irish Garden holds the annual Katsushika Iris Festival in early June where visitors can enjoy a serene landscape of more than 200 varieties of 6,000 iris plants. Known to be the oldest iris garden in Tokyo, its beauty has been captured by many artists. Most famous of which is the traditional Japanese painting made by Hiroshige Utagawa in his famous series titled “100 Famous Views in Edo”.
Address: 2-19-1 Hirokiri, Katsushika, Tokyo
Website: http://www.city.katsushika.lg.jp/institution/1000096/1006888.html (Japanese only)
Ota Shrine (Kyoto, Kyoto)
It is said that irises have been blooming at Ota Shrine’s ponds since the Heian Period (794-1185). The shrine is part of an even larger Kamigamo Shrine complex, which is one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Kyoto. Similar to Horokiri Iris Garden, its timeless beauty has inspired many painting and poems making it an important national treasure. Spring in this region starts a little earlier in mid-May. In the same time when these irises are in full bloom, the shrine celebrates the Kamigamo Yasurai Festival.
Address: 340 Kamigamo Motoyama Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
Price: Free but donation is requested
Sunflower / Himawari
You will find yourself literally walking on the sunshine when you visit any of Japan’s sunflower fields. These flowers are perfect for the summer season because of their bright yellow colors that will surely cheer up those who get to see them.
Places for viewing Sunflowers:
Akeno Sunflower Field (Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture)
A field of 600,000 sunflowers against the backdrop of the Japanese Alps is what awaits you in Hokuto City every summer. For an entire month starting from the last weekend in July, the city holds its annual Akeno Sunflower Festival. Visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras and join the festival’s photo contest. Do also try the sunflower soft ice cream while going through the local farm markets set up in the event area.
Address: 5664 Asao, Akeno-cho, Hokuto, Yamanashi
Website: http://www.hokuto-kanko.jp/event/sunflowerfestival2016 (Japanese only)
Hokuryu-cho Himawari No Sato (Uryu-gun, Hokkaido Prefecture)
Hokkaido region in northern Japan gets a lot of snow but come summer it is bright and yellow with the largest sunflower field in the country. Hokuryu-cho Himawari No Sato is home to 1.5 million sunflower blooms. During their sunflower festival usually scheduled between mid-July to late August, guests are treated to scenic tractor rides and life-size mazes through these fields.
Address: 143-2 Itaya, Hokuryu-cho, Uryu-gun, Hokkaido
Website: http://hokuryu-kankou.com (Japanese only)
Japanese Flowers in Autumn: September to December
Cosmos is a flower relatively new in Japan believed to have been first brought to the country during the Meiji Period (1867-1912). Even so, these pink, white, orange, and yellow flowers are also called autumn Sakura, representing the fall season.
Places for viewing Cosmos:
Taiyo-no-Oka Engaru Park (Mombetsu-gun, Hokkaido Prefecture)
The largest cosmos fields with 10 million flowers sprawled over 100 thousand square meters of earth can also be found in Hokkaido. From mid-August to the end of September, different varieties bring color to the park grounds. There are also fireworks and other events held during this season.
Address: Marudai, Engaru-cho, Mombetsu-gun, Hokkaido
Price: ¥300 (Adult), ¥150 (Children)
Hokiji Temple (Ikoma, Nara Prefecture)
Hokiji Temple and its three-story pagoda is the oldest in Japan. During the fall season, its ambiance is made even more picturesque with pretty cosmos blooms scattered all over the area. It is a picture of timeless beauty.
Address: 1873 Okamoto, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma, Nara
Chrysanthemum / Kiku
Along with Sakura, chrysanthemums are the representative flowers of Japan. While cherry blossoms are for the enjoyment of everyone, chrysanthemums are associated with the Imperial Family. It is a symbol for longevity and for that reason, the Emperor of Japan and members of his family used it as a crest. Interestingly, Japan is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world until now.
Places for viewing Chrysanthemums:
Yushima Tenmangu Shrine (Bunkyo, Tokyo)
The shrine for scholars turns into a place of flower artistry in November during the Bunkyo Kiku Matsuri. Over 2,000 chrysanthemums plants in various Ozukuri displays are the highlights here. Ozukuri or “Thousand Blooms” is the intricate art of growing Kiku flowers from a single stem in order to create designs like domes or cascade displays.
Address: 3-30-1 Yushima, Bunkyo, Tokyo
Kasama Inari Shrine (Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Kasama Inari Shrine’s Kiku Matsuri is the oldest festival dedicated to chrysanthemums dating back to 1890. From mid-October to late November, the shrine grounds are adorned with 10,000 pots of these autumn flowers and attract around 600,000 visitors each year.
Address: 1 Kasama, Kasama, Ibaraki
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.