When someone thinks of famous Japanese flowers and plants, perhaps the two things that will probably spring to mind are Sakura (cherry blossoms) and bonsai trees. These two things have become synonymous with Japan, and are famous around the world.
However, due to a great climate for plants and flowers throughout Japan, there are many other beautiful plants and flowers to be seen in various parts of the year. A real advantage for plant-lovers is that Japan takes very good care of its flora, and takes seriously the importance of conserving and encouraging the growth of plants and flowers in the country.
There are over 7,000 native plants in Japan, many of which hold some importance or significance to its people in some way, This article will talk about just three of them, which are celebrated in the country and very beautiful to visit and see.
Matsu is Japanese pine, and it is a beautiful spectacle to see. It is an important part of any Japanese garden and is often admired for its dark serene colors. Matsu is relatively easy to grow, and can be easily pruned into different shapes.
When matsu have reached maturity, their barks are almost black, which look amazing when matched with its dark green leaves. Matsu are also well known for keeping their color and shape throughout the year and in all seasons, making them especially popular.
Matsu come in many different sizes and shapes, and are often the plant of choice when used in bonsai or tiny potted miniature trees. Creating a bonsai requires skill and patience, but are definitely worth it and made easier by the characteristics of matsu.
You will be able to see matsu in basically any Japanese garden, temple, or shrine grounds in Japan. Try and head to one of many gardens during winter, which can be refreshing when surrounded by so many dead leaves and flowers!
Shibazakura basically means ‘pink moss’, and usually blooms between April and May in Japan. They are millions of tiny pink flowers, and they look absolutely spectacular when in full bloom. As seen in the above picture, they resemble a bright pink carpet when spread out over fields.
As you might expect, locals and foreign visitors alike flock to see the shibazakura when they are in full bloom. One of the best places to see them is at the very popular (and very busy!) Fuji Shibazakura Festival, which is in Yamanashi Prefecture but not far from Tokyo (around two hours by train from Shinjuku).
The festival is held from late April to late May every year, and the fields have around 800,000 shibazakura and six different varieties of the flower. There is a small entrance fee (520 yen for adults and 210 for children), but it’s well worth it to see such stunning natural scenery. The festival is well organized with footpaths and many food stalls scattered in the surrounding area. Find out more here.
Aside from this festival, you can also see shibazakura in Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu (an hour from Tokyo). These flowers are absolutely unmissable and breathtaking when seen up close, and are well celebrated and looked after in Japan.
Ajisai are probably my all-time favorite plant in Japan. These beautiful flowers have blossoms which resemble pom-poms. They usually bloom at the end of the rainy season in Japan, which is anywhere between May and June.
Ajisai are very common in the whole of East Asia and you can see different varieties in China, Korea, the Himalayas, Indonesia, and of course in Japan. They also grow in the Americas.
In terms of their color, most of the species of Ajisai are white. However, in Japan, you can see plenty of ajisai in pale blue, pink, and light purple. In fact, Japan is one of the best places in the world to see this variety of colors and shades of this flower. One explanation for the greater variety of colors in Japan is the different soil properties in certain areas of the country.
In Japan, the pink variety of ajisai are particularly popular and are usually picked and given as a sign of love and affection when they are in bloom. It is also popular to make tea out of ajisai, which is known as ‘ama-cha’ (sweet tea).
If you want to see these stunning flowers, you needn’t travel far when in Japan. They can be spotted in parks, gardens, temples, and even along the streets in most Japanese cities.
However, if you are in Tokyo try getting along to the Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival. This is an annual event which includes 3,000 of these flowers stretching from Hakusan Shrine from Hakusan Park in the city. You can also enjoy them at Sumida Park, and at Toshimaen Amusement Park, to name just a few!
Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival Website*Japanese Only
Here are just three of the best-loved plants and flowers in Japan, and some of the most recognized and established places you will be able to see them. However, just walking around one of the many Japanese gardens in Japan will show you there are so many gorgeous species of flora in the country. Enjoy your visit!