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Goin’ Japanesque!

Blow away your gloomy feeling at Hydrangea Festival of Hakusan Shrine

June in Japan sees the temperature going up as it gets closer to summer of July and August. Students will be having summer holidays soon and their excitement rises with the plans for summer just as the temperature does.

On the other hand, June in Japan is the season of rain that is called ‘Tsuyu’ in Japanese. It rains almost every day, which leads to high humidity in the rising temperature. You know how it feels. You probably wouldn’t be motivated to move at all. You wouldn’t even feel like going outside because of the rain.

However, natural attributes of four seasons in Japan make up for the negatives. One of those is the hydrangea or ‘Ajisai’ in Japanese. Looking at the hydrangeas dampened by the rain makes the gloomy feeling of the season go away. It strangely makes you even start to see the goodness in the rainy season.

There are lots of festivals to celebrate Japanese hydrangeas but now I would like to introduce one of the famous festivals that is Hakusan Shrine’s Hydrangea Festival. I visited the place the other day so please take your time to see what it’s like.


Ajisai the flower loved by Japanese

Hydrangea flowers bloom all at once in June (Writer’s Photo)

Japanese hydrangeas come into bloom in June to July and the colours include blue, purple, white, pink, and many others. The parts that are seen as flowers are actually not true flowers but sepals that grow to look like flowers.

There are two types of flower arrangements; one is a large round flowerhead that look like pom poms and the other is a flat flowerhead formed by tiny flowers in the centre surrounded by larger ones in a circle that look like a drone. Hydrangeas are 1-2m high shrubs and many flowers form an outstanding cluster that you can recognise them from far away.

Hydrangeas can clear your gloomy feeling in the rainy season of June so they are the ones that are loved by so many Japanese people.

Kanji Trivia: Kanji for Hydrangea or Ajisai is 紫陽花. While the origin of the name is not known very well, the kanji 紫陽花 is known to have been used for a completely different flower that later was replaced by Ajisai for unknown reasons.


Hakusan Shrine famous for Ajisai


Japanese lanterns arranged in lines (Writer’s Photo)

Hakusan Shrine was built in Edo Era and it is one of the historic shrines in Japan. Although it’s not a large one, it has a little town in front and also it has a large ‘Torii’ or shrine gate. Also there are many Japanese lanterns hanging at the place for cleansing hands and a dragon statue that feeds out water. You can see a Koma Inu or guardian dog in front of the main building and all the historic things there make the awe inspiring atmosphere.

Receiving water from the mouth of the dragon (Writer’s Photo)

Hakusan Shrine is located in Bunkyo District of Tokyo where you can enjoy all kinds of flowers throughout the year. Bunkyo District is famous for its five biggest flower festivals and Hakusan Shrine Hydrangea Festival is one of those. There are more than 3000 shrubs of hydrangea in the area of the shrine and its adjacent park and what you see there is beyond description when they all come into bloom in June. They come in many different colours including blue, purple, light blue, white, red and pink and they are all amusing to see.


How to enjoy Ajisai Festival

Flat flowerhead of Ajisai (Writer’s Photo)

The festival is free to entre but this amazing festival is organised and run by volunteers from the shrine and local area. You may have some courtesy of making a prayer and offertory or buying something from stalls. That may help contribute to the local economy.

Colourful hydrangeas around Koma Inu (Writer’s Photo)

You can see hydrangeas everywhere at the shrine during the festival. It’s all up to you how to enjoy them. You may just enjoy seeing them or even enjoy smelling them. You may want to take some photos too. Find your own way to have a good time. It is an absolute taboo to pick them though. Such act not only ruins the sight but also ruins the experience for other visitors. If you want to take some flowers home, there is a stall that sells pots of hydrangeas so you can buy some there.

Also after enjoying hydrangeas to your heart’s content you may walk around the shrine too. There are lots of food and drink stalls where you can get some local foods and craft beer that was developed by the nearby ‘Toyo University’. Eating and drinking is another fun part of the festival.


A must-go-place

Writer’s Photo

There is a little hillock of about 20m × 20m in size and 5 m in height where you can see a lot of hydrangeas. You can enter from the entrance gate and follow the path through to the other side. It is recommendable to walk through the field of hydrangeas.


Hydrangea or Ajisai is Japan’s native plant and it has taken root deeply into our history and culture as it often appeared in old books. There are many festivals that celebrate this significant flower but I think Hakusan Shrine Ajisai Festival is the best of all.

This festival would be a very good chance for you to find out more about Japan’s history and culture too.

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About the author

Hi! My name is FJ. Travelling is fun and it's something that gives you life lessons and enriches your life. I hope travelling to Japan becomes one of those times for you too. I'm here hoping to help you have good times in Japan by providing information and tips on many kinds of things. Enjoy your travels!

View all articles by FJ