Written by Merilwen Horseback
Hydrangea Festival In Toshimaen: A Flower Paradise In The Rainy Season
From May 25 to June 24 in 2019, Tokyo's Toshimaen Park will become a hydrangea paradise with 10,000 flower trees of 150 different species. Grab your umbrella and come see the beautiful flowers of the rainy season!
From around the end of May, it becomes hotter and hotter in Japan. The rainy season is drawing near - in just a few more days, the cool blessing of rain will come upon us and ease the heat of early summer. This will mark the beginning of a mass blooming of hydrangeas, the flowers that represent the rainy season.
What Is the Hydrangea (Ajisai)?
Hydrangea is a type of bush flower originally from southern and eastern Asia (Japan, China, the Himalayas and Indonesia) and the Americas. In Japan, it is called ajisai. This name seems to be deriving from a combination of 'atsumaru' which means 'to gather' and 'ai' - the word for 'indigo blue'. It refers to the many small blue flowers that bloom all together.
Later, as the flower got more popular, different species were bred and selected to create new species with new colors. Nowadays, we can see gardens full of hydrangeas in many different colors blooming side by side.
The hydrangeas gradually change color according to the chemical make-up and pH of the soil. This unique characteristic has given the hydrangea, together with lantana, another name in Japanese – Shichihenge, which means “seven transformations”, referring to its color-changing properties.
In just a few days, you will suddenly realize how much these special flowers are loved in Japan. You can see hydrangeas blooming everywhere: at the entrances of houses, at shrines and temples, at street corners, inside restaurants, and so on. Once a year, thanks to these beautiful flowers, the city shows another face, which is misty and dreamlike.
A Hydrangea Paradise in Toshimaen Park
Located near Toshimaen Station in Tokyo's Nerima ward, which is just 12 minutes by train from Ikebukuro, Toshimaen Park is a popular destination for those who live in the western area of Tokyo and Saitama. This is also one of the oldest amusement parks in Tokyo.
Toshimaen Park hosts its 15th Annual Hydrangea Festival in 2017 from May 27th to June 30th, featuring 10,000 flower trees of a total of 150 species.
The main attraction of the festival, the Hydrangea Garden (or “Ajisai-en” in Japanese), is separated into various sections. Walking around the park, you will pass through valleys filled with colorful globes of flowers, walk under a 20-meter flower tunnel to different parts of the park or enjoy the view from under a traditional Japanese pavilion’s roof.
You can also hop on the steam locomotive train and take a tour around the park. The view from the train is exclusive and very different from how you see the garden from the walking pathways. One ride costs 300 yen.
Please note that it's quite tricky to visit the park during this time of the year. The rain may take you by surprise at any time, and you may need to take shelter for a while then come back again. One small tip for you: always keep a folding umbrella inside your bag, even when the weather forecast says it’s unlikely to rain that day.
But don’t give up going to the park just because of the rain. You will see that the hydrangea is indeed a flower of the rain, as it will show its healthiest state and loveliest colors in the mist and humidity of a rainy day.
Hydrangeas in Their Nightgowns
From June 3rd to the 25th, the park extends its opening time to 19:30. After 17:00, you can visit the Hydrangea Garden with just 300 yen as admission fee. Staying there before and after dusk, you will be surprised by how the atmosphere of the garden changes.
The whole garden will be litten up when it starts to get dark. Those brilliant and colorful fairies you have seen during daytime will change into their nightgowns. And there they are - irresistibly attractive and mysterious.
Toshimaen, one of the parks with the richest history in Japan, is opening its famous Hydrangea Garden very soon. The lovely flowers inside this garden are so soothing that you'll forget about the upcoming hot summer and about your busy daily life.
Prepare your nicest umbrella and let’s go to the hydrangea paradise in Toshimaen!