What is “Ajisai” あじさい – Hydrangea?
In Tokyo, cherry blossoms usually fall by April. Rapeseed wilts in May, and it is the rainy days in June a perfect time to view Hydrangea. Hydrangea is called “Ajisai” in Japanese, and it literally means “purple-sun-flower”. Hydrangea’ss long panicles from their large flower bloom are so easy to be recognized, and they always become the center of attention in a garden full of flowers.
In Japanese tradition, Hydrangea is the sign of the rainy season. Although hydrangea is not exclusive in Japan, it holds dear in Japanese people’s hearts and the flower is adored and honored as they do for ume (plum), Sakura (cherry), and irises. In fact, Hydrangea was first cultivated in Japan. Now, Hydrangeas are cultivated in temples, gardens, parks, and even on the roadside – and these places will be packed with visitors when the flowers are blooming, usually from the end of May to June.
Japanese hydrangeas have a hue of blue that is quite unique and unusual in other kinds of flowers. The large flower bloom is very eye-catching and they look even more beautiful after catching the morning rain. There are a few places to see these flowers, usually in the Kantō region, and I viewed them in both Tokyo and Kamakura.
What are the colors and shapes of hydrangeas?
Interestingly, there is no definite answer. Hydrangea color varies, even the flower blooms are grown from the same stock. It is because the color of the flower depends on the acidity and the amount of aluminum in the soil. Anthocyanin is the pigment of hydrangea and the spectrum cover from shades of blue to purple. The amount of pigment depends on the amount of aluminum in the soil. When the soil is alkaline, the blooms become pink; when the soil is acidic, the blooms become blue.
Aging also determines the color of the flower. The flower may look green on a young bush and it changes color as the chlorophyll degrades as it gets older.
What types of hydrangeas are commonly seen in Japan?
The most commonly seen hydrangea is “Hon-ajisai”, or the French hydrangeas, mopheads, or hortensias, this is the common “western hydrangea” and was imported from foreign countries. It has a full body with a wide range of colors from white, pink, blue, purple to red. The large flower bloom has small flowers evenly distribute throughout. It is also good for cut flowers as you see them at the florist.
Lacecap hydrangea is a unique type of hydrangea that could be easily recognized. It shapes like the mopheads and the tiny flower buds in the center, with the big flowers that circle the edge of the flower head. Try to look for them when you are viewing the flowers in the gardens!
Panicle Hydrangea is known for its long panicles from which its large flower bloom. Their cone-shaped panicles can range from six to 18 inches long, as opposed to the bulb-shaped flower heads of others hydrangeas.
Try to look for them when you are viewing the flowers in the gardens!
Where are the best places to view hydrangeas in the Tokyo area?
Summer is once again coming to the north side of the earth and I saw a beautiful orange Hydrangea bloomed near my home in the morning when I headed off to work.
To celebrate the blooming season visitors do not have to go far. Close to The University of Tokyo, both Hakusan Shrine and Ueno Park are great places to view hydrangea when they are in season.
Hakusan-Jinja Shrine is located in Bunkyo city, a charming, old-fashioned neighborhood known for its rich culture and beautiful flowers – the city holds five major flower festivals annually, and the hydrangea Festival (Ajisai Matsuri) is one of them. The event starts on June 8th in 2019 and there are over 3,000 hydrangeas around Hakusan-Jinja Shrine and Hakusan Park. Visitors come here to enjoy viewing and photo-shooting, and there are a number of street stalls selling potted hydrangeas and other festive items during the festival.
Ueno Onshi Park
Another great place is Ueno Onshi Park. It is a well-known spot for cherry blossoms, and also hydrangea. The park covers 530,000 sqm with a lot of cultural and recreation facilities, including Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Zoo, and so on.
Hydrangea is grown on the sidewalk of numerous trails in the parks. In other words, hydrangeas are basically everywhere. Enjoy viewing hydrangea while exploring the many places in the area!
Other great places to see hydrangeas in Tokyo
For a list of best places to view hydrangea in the Tokyo area, other places are listed in the following, and check out the map to see which spot is closer to you. More, here is the Tokyo hotel guide for you to look for a place to stay when you are in Tokyo.
- Asukayama Park
- Fuchushi Kyodonomori Museum
- Hamarikyu Gardens
- Hakusan-Jinja Shrine
- Jindai Botanical Gardens
- Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens
- Kyu Shiba Rikyu Onshi Garden
- Showa Kinen Park
- Sumida Park
- The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (Koukyo Higashi Gyoen)
- Tokyo Summer Land
- Toneri Park
- Ukima Park
- Yakushiike Park
- Hakone Tozan railway (Hydrangea Train “Yoru no Ajisai Gou”)
- Hase Temple
- Kita Kamakura Kominka Museum
- Engaku-Ji Temple