A flurry of pink petals dancing in the wind, vibrant flowers filling the horizon and gently moving to the sound of your breath - Japan’s nature is a highlight of every visit. We’ll let you in on a secret, to fully experience its full beauty, you don’t have to limit yourself to spring! Our favourite aspect of Japan’s nature is that due to the country’s geographical positioning, while one end of Japan will be at the height of the spring hanami flower viewing season, the other side will still be hidden under a deep blanket of snow. This means that depending on the area you visit, you can enjoy different aspects of Japan’s great outdoors and time it with your favourite blossoms. In the spirit of this month’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we explore Japan’s beautiful flowers and reveal the best time of the year to view them.
Plum Blossoms (February- March)
Visiting at the start of the year, you will be greeted by the stunningly pink plum blossoms. They are the harbinger of spring and that’s why many places like the Odawara Castle in Kanagawa prefecture, organise festivals to celebrate! They look similar to cherry blossoms and are a great alternative for people who want to avoid the crowds but still want to enjoy the sight of trees adorned with fleeting pink flowers. Another great place to note down for your list is the Kairakuen Garden in Ibaraki prefecture which also happens to be one of Japan’s top three most beautiful gardens!
Cherry Blossoms (March- May)
There are many different types of cherry blossoms, with the earliest Kawazu Sakura blooming from early February. However, the main cherry blossom season lasts between mid-March to late March in places like Kyoto or Tokyo. This does change year to year so make sure to watch out for the cherry blossom forecasts. Cherry blossoms start blooming from Kyushu in the south and travel across Japan to Hokkaido in the north where they only peak in late April! You can take a look at our favourite off-the-beaten-track places for the pink flowers here or read more about the less crowded blossoms in Tohoku here.
Wisteria (April- May)
Another of our favourites are the vibrant wisteria flowers that begin to bloom after the main cherry blossom season is over! In Japan their colour and dangling strings evoke images of the past because they have been a popular motif in art since the samurai era. You can find it across the country, but we recommend visiting one of the specialty parks that pride themselves in their wisteria trees.
Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi, home to a 150 year old wisteria tree, is a real treat with its lit up flower tunnels, and you can easily turn it into a day trip from Tokyo.
An alternative in the southern prefecture of Fukuoka is the Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden. It’s a favourite location for wisteria viewing amongst Japanese people so make sure to book your visit months in advance!
Hydrangeas (May- July)
The highlight of a visit during Japan’s summer rainy season are the magnificent hydrangea blossoms in a variety of lively colours. The shade of their flowers will tell you a lot about the soil - it changes depending on the acidity! You can often find them in temples, shrines, and parks, and their blossoms are often accompanied by festivals. The old capital of Kamakura boasts stunning hydrangea blossoms that frame its historical architecture beautifully. Make sure to pay a visit to the Meigetsuin Temple or Hasedera Temple! Shimoda Park in Shizuoka prefecture, with over a thousand hydrangea bushes, is another noteworthy location.
Sunflowers and Lavender (July- August)
Both flowers can be found on the fields around the country in the sunny summer months. The bright sunflowers can be found in places like the Akeno Sunflower Field in Yamanashi prefecture or the Hokuryu Sunflower Village in Hokkaido.
Lavender fields are especially popular in northern prefecture Hokkaido - Furano Flower Fields are a real treat for flower enthusiasts!
Chrysanthemums (September- November)
By @jinchan72 on Instagram
The most regal flower on our list is used to describe the Japanese monarchy, or the ‘chrysanthemum throne’. It can be found on the front of the Japanese passport and on official seals. Chrysanthemums can be caught on display in the autumn months during ‘kiku matsuri’ chrysanthemum festivals such as the Fujiwara Autumn Festival in Iwate prefecture!
Kochia bushes can be viewed in Japan during most of the year when they grace the horizon with their vivid green colour and signature shape. However, every October they go through a dramatic colour change, turning a deep crimson, as if they have been set on fire! They can be best viewed in an unending sea of red at the Hitachi Seaside Park which is famous for its flora, the perfect location for a day trip north from Tokyo. For kochia bushes with views of the glorious Mt. Fuji, head to the Oishi Park in the lake Kawaguchi area.
Japan is abundant in lush nature and we only scratched the surface with our top picks. Other worth remembering flowers are the Nemophila with a telling name ‘Baby Blue Eyes’, spider lilies, lotus flowers and so many more. When planning your dream trip, make sure to check out one of Japan’s beautiful flower parks. Some of them, like the Showa Memorial Park in Tokyo, are just a short train away from the main cities!