Spring in Japan is a beautiful thing. While cherry blossoms steal all the show (see my latest Week of Sakura Hunting series), there are numerous flower gardens that come to full bloom later in April, May and June that take your breath away. Every year I make sure to find a new place where I can admire seasonal blooms. Last year, I visited this breathtaking hydrangea garden in Chiba, while this year I headed to Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple to see their special collection of azalea shrubs. It was only serendipitous that my trip fell on Earth Day – the perfect time to leave the city and savor the beauty of Mother Nature. Shiofune Kannon-ji is a 1,300-year-old Buddhist temple. According to the legend, it’s founder Yao Bikuni lived to be 800 years old by eating mermaid flesh. The main hall of the temple is located in a small depression shaped as a bowl. The hills surrounding the shrine are covered densely with colorful shrubs.
Entire temple grounds were ablaze with color as different azalea bushes came to full bloom. Did you know that there are a few hundred species of this shrub? It’s no secret that Japanese excel at garden designs and flower arrangements. Plants have long carried not only aesthetic value but also a philosophical meaning in Japanese culture. Azaleas, for example, are associated with modesty and humility, presumably because they do not grow to any great height, though their flowers are spectacularly colorful. It was a treat for the eyes how different colors blanketed the slopes. Pathways weave through the shrubs for an enjoyable stroll up to the Kannon where a panoramic view opens up of the entire surrounding city.
The temple grounds are open every day from 8 am till 5 pm. They never close for holidays and are the scene of several celebrations. On May 3 every year, there is a fire-walking event with food vendors and lots of locals. The small temple is open for inside viewing of Buddha on this day. If I’m not mistaken, Ome is still considered to be part of Tokyo, but it takes roughly 2 hours to get to the garden. The JR Ome Line’s Kabe Station is the nearest station to the garden. From there you either walk 35 minutes, catch a taxi, or ride a bus Ume-77-ko or the Nishi Kawa-11 and get off at the Shiofune Kannon-ji entrance bus stop. The temple is about 10 minutes from there.
For the list of other gorgeous flower festivals in Japan, please read my post here.
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