Did you know that the hydrangeas that bloom during the rainy season in June and July are native to Japan? People have enjoyed these flowers since olden times, and they are even mentioned in the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, a poetry anthology that dates back to around the year 750. Hydrangeas are typified by large, colorful sepals (the leafy enclosure that protects the buds before they bloom) that change color, from white to blue or purple, over time. Many hybrids have been cultivated, and hydrangeas are now commonplace in Europe and North America, as well as Japan and other parts of Asia.
One of the best hydrangea viewing spots in Fukuoka is the hydrangea garden at Hakozaki Shrine. Located behind the main hall in the back west corner of the shrine grounds, the hydrangea garden provides the shrine with a colorful backdrop every June. The spacious garden measures 5,600 m2 and features 3,500 flowers of roughly 100 varieties. Meanwhile, the nearby Shin’en Flower Garden is home to 5,000 lilies, making for another beautiful stopover when you visit the shrine.
The Fukuoka Castle ruins are a well-known spot for viewing cherry blossoms, but the surrounding Maizuru Park is actually a great flower spot year-round, and there are patches of hydrangeas here and there that you can enjoy during the rainy season. It is a beautiful sight to see the colorful hydrangeas against the backdrop of the old stone walls, and the most eye-catching patch stands in front of the Shimonohashi Gomon Gate located next to the moat. Gorgeous deep yellow water lilies also come into bloom along the moat at the same time of year, so be sure to stop by and watch the two different flowers put on a sensational seasonal show of color.
Another good spot for hydrangeas is Ryuguji Temple in Hakata Ward. This cozy little temple is a great spot for a leisurely stroll, especially when the flowers are in bloom. The name of the temple is derived from ryugu-jo, the legendary underwater castle where the dragon god of the sea lived, because the bones of a “mermaid” supposedly captured in Hakata Bay in 1222 are kept in the main hall. The temple is also home to a prized Edo era scroll depicting mermaids.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn222, June 2017)