While the ongoing rainy season means staying indoors to some people, for others, it is a chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful tapestry of ajisai (hydrangeas), whose colors vary from white to blue to pink to purple — and all shades in between.
Sakura (cherry blossoms) may get the glory, but there are many hydrangea-viewing events happening through the month (until the end of July in some northern regions).
In Kyoto, the 1,284-year-old Gansenji Temple (www.pref.kyoto.jp/yamashiro/no-hana/gansenji.html) in the southern city of Kizu, was founded by prominent Buddhist monk Gyoki, and is famous for its hydrangea garden, which is beautifully set against a three-story vermillion pagoda.
Sanzenin Temple (www.sanzenin.or.jp/event/detail/31), also in Kyoto, is another temple with a 1,000-year-old history. It welcomes visitors with 3,000 hydrangea plants, including yama-ajisai (Hydrangea serrata) and gaku-ajisai (Hydrangea macrophylla), the latter of which features a combination of small petals surrounded by large sepals.
In Nara Prefecture, Yatadera Temple in the city of Yamatokoriyama (www.yatadera.or.jp) is known as the “hydrangea temple,” boasting 10,000 plants representing 60 different varieties. The temple says hydrangeas remind visitors of the Buddhist philosophy of the transient nature of things, as the flower changes color through the season.
If you happen to be in Hakone, visit any of the numerous viewing spots, including ones on the Hakone Tozan Railway Line, between Gora and Koen-shimo stations, and around Lake Ashinoko near the Moto-Hakone Port (www.hakone.or.jp/blog/special-feature/index.html?page=3468)
Finally, in the city of Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, the Katahara Hot Spring resort area (www.katahara-spa.jp) has a hydrangea festival through the end of June, boasting 50,000 plants of various kinds that are lit up for night viewing. Visitors need to pay ¥300 to get into the Ajisai-no-sato area to view the flowers, but at night, it comes with the added bonus of a chance to watch the fireflies glow in the dark.