After sakura: A guide to the lovely flowers of Tokyo’s tsuyu season
Updated as of 12 June 2023
Originally published on 7 June 2021
In early summer, most parts of Japan get visited by a rainy season, known as tsuyu (梅雨), literally meaning "plum rain", because it coincides with the season of plums ripening. In most parts of Japan, tsuyu usually lasts from the beginning of June to mid-July.
However, due to various environmental consequences, in recent years, we have been experiencing warmer winters here in Japan, and also an early shifting of the blooming of flowers by 2–3 weeks. During tsuyu, it rains for about half of the time, and during a quarter of the season, we have sunny perfect blue sky days. The blooming of irises and hydrangeas are some sights that are the most beautiful when it rains. Today, I will share a selected few spots in Tokyo (東京) where admission is free to enjoy these sights.
Flowering irises at the garden in modern day (left). To take a nice photo, stand on the bridge between the iris patches so that you would be surrounded by them (right). (Image credit: Wanping)
The blooming of the Japanese Iris (菖蒲 shōbu) is often a sign of the tsuyu season in Japan. There are mainly three types of irises in Japan: hanashobu (花菖蒲 Iris ensata), kakitsubata (燕子花 Iris laevigata) and ayame (あやめ Iris sanguinea). Of these three species, the hanashobu is the one most commonly referred to as "Japanese iris" outside of Japan. The Horikiri Iris Garden (堀切菖蒲園 Horikiri shōbuen), located at Katsushika Ward (葛飾区 Katsushika-ku) in Tokyo is one of the famous places for enjoying irises. This has been a popular spot for enjoying irises 150 years ago, since the Edo Period (江戸時代1603–1867). This is also listed as one of One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (名所江戸百景 meisho edō hyakkei) which is a series of series of 119 ukiyo-e prints begun and largely completed by the Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重).
Horikiri Iris Garden (堀切菖蒲園)
Address: 2-19-1 Horikiri, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo 124-0006
Nearest station: Horikirishobuen Station (堀切菖蒲園駅)
Access: 10-minute walk from station
Opening hours: 9am–5pm (closed from 29 December to 3 January)
Gaku-saki mophead hydrangea from my backyard (left) and temari-saki lacecap hydrangea by the road (right). Can you see that it is shaped like a heart? (Image credit Wanping)
The ajisai (紫陽花 Hydrangea macrophylla) is a symbolic flower of tsuyu. This flower is native to Japan and there are more than 100 varieties of hydrangeas of various colours in Japan today, including those that bloom into balls of flowers (テマリ咲き temari-saki mophead); and those whose flowers surround a bald patch like a frame (ガク咲き gaku-saki lacecaps). Relatively easy to grow, hydrangeas are commonly seen by the road, in parks, and shrines. Some temples are known for their hydrangea gardens and are popular places to see large numbers of flowers in a picturesque setting.
The hydrangea colours can also be changed from pink to blue, and vice versa, by adjusting the pH and aluminium concentration in the soil. Changing a hydrangea from pink to blue requires aluminium to be added to the soil via fertiliser and keeping the soil slightly acidic. Changing from blue to pink means removing aluminium from the soil and keeping the soil slightly alkaline.
(Left) The most popular photo spot to take a photo at the beautiful blue pompoms lining the stairway. (Right) Hydrangeas swaying in the wind with the Giant Ferris Wheel at Palette Town in the background. (Image credit: Wanping)
The Symbol Promenade Park (シンボルプロムナード公園 Shinborupuromunādo kōen) at Odaiba (お台場) is recently gaining popularity as a hydrangea photo spot.
Symbol Promenade Park (シンボルプロムナード公園)
Address: 1,2 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo / 1, 2 Aomi, Koto-ku / 2, 3 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064
Nearest station: Tokyo Teleport Station (東京テレポート駅)
A cloudy day during the tsuyu season with hydrangeas and the Tokyo Skytree sharing a frame (left). Taking a photo at the Ajisai Road outside Sumida Park (right). All road paths that are lined with loads of hydrangeas are called Ajisai Road (あじさいロード). Check out the #skytreexajisai hashtag on social media! (Image credit: Wanping)
Another popular spot for hydrangeas is at Sumida Park (隅田公園 Sumida kōen). This park is by the Sumida River (隅田川 Sumida-gawa) and is a perfect place to take a photo of the Tokyo Skytree with hydrangeas in the foreground. Have you ever taken a photo with the hydrangeas and Tokyo Skytree?
Sumida Park (隅田公園)
Address: 1-1 Imado / 7-1 Asakusa / 1-1 Hanakawado / 2-1 Hanakawado, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0033
Nearest station: Asakusa Station (浅草駅)
Access: 5-minute walk from station
Despite the rain, the beautiful hydrangeas are there to brighten up everyone’ day. Try looking out for hydrangeas the next time you visit Tokyo in June. They can be found almost anywhere!
Header image credit: Wanping
Writer's profile: Wanping is the CEO of TokudAw Inc., a tour company based in Tokyo. She loves seasonal flowers and spends most of her free time looking for off the beaten track spots.