It’s rainy season this month in Japan, which means that part of me wants to stay in my house curled up on my couch with a book, while the other part of me wants to take advantage of the lack of humidity and go out exploring. Luckily, this past weekend was a bit of a compromise – no rain and bearable temperatures – so we set off on a cross-Kyushu adventure to Beppu. Garden lover that I am, the thing that topped my list for the weekend was the iris display at Lake Kagurame.
Lake Kagurame sits outside the city of Beppu, just a few minutes off the mountain road that links Beppu to Yufuin. Throughout the year, the glassy lake offers a quiet place to sit, to bird watch in the viewing pavilion or to enjoy a ramble. The trail that rings the lake actually links up to one of the longer Kyushu Olle courses (hikes throughout Kyushu that tie historical sites with natural scenery).
But the place really shines in the second half of June, when over 300,000 irises comprising 80 different varieties burst into bloom in a parade of purple. I’ve seen a lot of iris gardens, but this display is truly impressive. It helps that the entire scene is bordered by mountains but even without them, I feel this place is special.
There is a boardwalk along the edge of the iris fields and you can also pick your way carefully through the narrow muddy rows that separate the groups of flowers.
On one Saturday in the iris season, a small festival is held in the parking area near the lake, with food stalls and music at certain intervals throughout the day.
You could reach the garden in a 15-20 minute taxi ride from Beppu (it’s not too much farther past the ropeway up to Mt Tsurumi) and there is also a bus, but it only runs five times a day. The bus stops right at the parking lot, which is a ten minute walk from the iris garden itself.