Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Temple For Hydrangeas.

Ever since moving to Japan, I've heard whispers of a hydrangea-filled temple in Kamakura.  A place so beautiful and chock-full of hydrangeas that tourists will wait in line for two hours. Hydrangeas are some of the last flowers to bloom in Japan's long, spring season. Since this is our last year in Japan, now was my final chance.  Ok, trying not to get misty-eyed here... I knew it was a sight I couldn't miss!

An ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) creation greeted us just inside the turnstile.

My friend and I set off, in much anticipation, for a morning of Hydrangea Viewing!  We connected in Fujisawa in order to catch the Enoden line's famous train.  The station was festively decorated for the season.  Hydrangeas, everywhere!

So vibrant they look fake.

There are other ways to get to our final destination, but I like to take the Enoden line whenever possible.  It curves around Sagami Bay, with only a street separating the track from the ocean.  On a clear day, lucky passengers will get an unparalleled view of Mt. Fuji.

Enoden's cars are famous for their cute, vintage look. Station shops sell models and other train paraphernalia. 

When we switched trains at Kamakura Station, that station was festive, too!  Wagashi posters featured special, hydrangea treats.  

Each "flower" is decorated with a small, green "hydrangea leaf."

In general, my sightseeing Plan Of Attack is to save season-specific outings for weekdays.  The concept of seasons and microseasons (see the above Wagashi link) is intrinsic to much of Japanese culture.  When there is a specific, seasonal event,  prepare for it to be packed.  Packed. We went on a Monday, which I figured was pretty safe.  I didn't count on the approaching typhoon (meh...tropical storm) that is blustering about the windows as I type this.  It seemed like everyone in Kamakura wanted to view the hydrangeas before the storm!

Crowds of floraphiles (is that a word?) filled the streets between the station and the temple.  We had to queue
outside the  temple in two lines.  Make sure you don't accidentally join the official tour groups (like us). Whoops!

The walk from the station was picturesque.  We passed an imposing, mountainside temple that needs to be visited another time. Rickshaw drivers waited patiently while their passengers angled get the perfect photo.  Mysterious restaurants were tucked behind stone lantern-dotted gardens.  And the closer we got to the Hydrangea Temple, the more the lush hydrangea bushes began to fill in the landscape.

A rickshaw waits for its next customer amongst the hydrangeas.

Not even at the temple and already overwhelmed. So many!

The real name of the Hydrangea Temple is Meigetsuin, which means "bright moon."  The temple has a very famous, moon-viewing window (which we didn't see, because we were busy swooning over hydrangeas) and images of bunnies, everywhere (Instead of the Old Man In The Moon, the Japanese see a bunny).  Meigetsuin is also affectionately known as Ajisai-dera..."Hydrangea Temple."  Bunnies and hydrangeas, all in the same place?  This might be my new, favorite temple!

The temple has about 2000 of the vivid, blue bushes, which were planted at the temple after World War II.  Hydrangea color can be affected by both soil pH and the amount of sunlight a plant receives.  Both elements must be fairly consistent throughout the temple precinct, as almost every single bloom at Ajisai-dera was a clean, incredibly vivid blue.  The sight of so many blooming hydrangeas rambling up the mountainside was breathtaking.

A look back at the gated entrance and the hydrangeas that cover the mountainside. 

A purple-tinged bush.

Even the Buddha embraces the season!

A couple admires the hydrangeas from underneath a tea umbrella.

Sometimes, words are not sufficient to describe such indescribable beauty.  All I can say is that Meigetsuin's hydrangeas were one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  It was like we had stepped into heaven.  I have a new love for these blue blooms...they will always remind me of Japan and my visit to the Hydrangea Temple.

I hope the hydrangeas make it through this storm unscathed.  There were still many blooms waiting to make their appearance.  If you get a chance to go this week, take it!  If not, put it on your calendar for next mid-June.
Meigetsuin Temple is accessed via Kitakamakura Station and the Yokosuka and Shonan-Shinjuku Lines.  If you would like to take the scenic Enoden Line, switch at Kamakura and catch a local train. Exit at Kitakamakura Station, and follow the posted signs.  The temple is labeled, in English, as Meigetsuin.
During Hydrangea Season, the temple is open from 9 am until 5 pm.  There is an entrance fee of 500 yen. 

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!


  1. wow! I like the moody weather in your pics.

  2. I hope they bring back good memories of your own Ajisai-dera visit. =)

  3. This may be my favorite TF post. I LOVED going to Meigetsuin. I got take my mom and it was just incredible. So glad you got to go!!! LOVELY pictures :)

  4. I wish we could have gone together, Jill! That would have been so fun!