Iris gardens seem to be a dime a dozen in the Tokyo area but that doesn’t mean I love them any less. Purple being one of my favorite colors, I get a particular thrill to see these delicate-stalked blooms begin to appear in late May and throughout the month of June.
One of my favorite spots to see irises in the Tokyo Metro area is the Horikiri Shobu-en in northeastern Tokyo. Where, you ask? No, it’s not exactly on the typically beaten track, or as easy to insert into one’s sightseeing itinerary as, say, the lovely inner garden of Meiji Jingu (only worth visiting in iris season though, in my opinion). This garden is a short walk from Horikirishobuen Station on the Keisei line. (NOT to be confused with Horikiri Station, across the river.)
Though not as well known in the modern age, Horikiri Shobu-en has a pretty hefty historical claim to fame in that it was featured in an ukiyo-e (woodblock print) by Hiroshige in his well-known 100 Famous Views of Edo series.
Horikiri boasts over 6000 irises in a small slice of a city block. Look above the blooms, and the scene is rather drab. But focus on the flowers themselves – artistically arranged in varying color clumps – and it’s an intoxicating palette of violet hues. Paths meander through the site and a few bridges and small hills offer panoramas over the entire park.
On at least one weekend in mid-June, visitors will be treated to koto concerts and food stalls for the annual iris festival. Admission is always free but expect crowds, even on weekdays. Come early if possible – the garden opens from 8am to 6pm from June 1st to 25th, the peak of the blooming period.