I’m a total garden nerd. I don’t know how it happened, as we had more mint and parsley growing in our front yard garden than ornamental flowers. But for some reason, the palette of colors in the flower gardens here in Japan simply takes my breath away.
Of course, my favorite color has always been purple and June is awash in that hue. Iris gardens abound in Japan and some of my favorites are around Tokyo. If you’re in town this month, here are a few you absolutely don’t want to miss:
1. Meiji Jingu Inner Garden – Any other time of the year, I feel it’s safe to give this garden a miss. But come June, the wetlands here teem with irises in shades of purple and white. While the shrine itself is free to wander around, the garden costs ¥500. It’s absolutely worth it if you are a fan of irises.
2. Meigetsu-in (Kamakura) – This tiny temple in Kita-Kamakura is one of my favorites, though June brings hordes of visitors to the grounds. The acres surrounding the temple are flush with light blue hydrangea bushes but you can escape the crowds a bit by paying the supplementary fee to enter the iris garden. Framed by the temple’s circular picture window, you could sit and ponder the pastel blooms from the comfort of the tatami viewing room or you could have a walk through the grounds themselves.
3. Koishikawa Korakuen – Tokyo has a number of traditional gardens tucked in amongst the concrete and skyscrapers. Koishikawa Korakuen lies in the shadow of the Tokyo Dome (so the quiet atmosphere can be disrupted a tad on game days 🙂 ) but is one of my favorite gardens in the city center. A traditional stroll garden with a lovely pond, it also features a sizable iris section. At the moment, Koishikawa is undergoing a bit of renovation of its pond and some of the walkways. This year might not be the best time to visit but when the digging is done, this is definitely a garden to put on your list.
4. Imperial Palace East Garden – This garden always tops the list of ‘must-sees’ in the city, but I never understood the appeal until I visited in June. The iris garden here isn’t overly large, but it’s setting is highly attractive. Best of all, the garden is free, though closed on Mondays and Fridays.
5. Sawara and Itako – If you’re looking for a good day trip out of the city, head east into Chiba to the cities of Sawara and Itako. Sawara has a lovely old town that can be toured by canal boat and an aquatic garden with thousands of irises. Itako’s irises line the banks of its canals and they hold a month-long iris festival complete with dancing and scripted weddings featuring brides on boats.