This month’s destination: Gyoda Ancient Lotus Park, Saitama
All around the world, we’re mourning the cancellation of beloved summer events, and Japan is no exception. From fireworks to goldfish festivals to rock concerts, barely any classic summer delights have survived in this year of COVID. Except…the lotus blossoms. Since the beginning of time, these ancient symbols of “pure beauty that flowers from the muckiest mud” have uplifted the human spirit, so it’s fitting that even in these grim times, we can still wander beneath their glowing green parasols and marvel as their pink perfection unfurls at the break of day. This month, let’s visit the Gyōda Ancient Lotus Park (Gyōda Hasu-en), where we can wander for hours among plants that grew from millennia-old seeds.
The town of Gyōda also features a small castle (for you castle spotters):
And in non-COVID years, the municipal tower that sits right next to the Ancient Lotus Park offers a view of one of the strangest only-in-Japan tourist attractions: fields planted in rice art. They didn’t plant it in 2020 because of the pandemic, but last year, it looked like this:
Open: Saturday, June 13 – Sunday, August 2, 2020
Hours: 7:00 to 16:30
Admission: Adults, ¥400; Children, ¥200
If you come by car, they have a nice parking lot, and it costs ¥500 for the day
Here’s where Gyōda is:
Here’s how to get to Gyōda from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo:
I recommend leaving as early in the morning as you can stand, because lotus flowers open at first light, and close up by noon. If you get on the train around 7:00 am, you’ll be strolling among the ancient lotus by 8:30, plenty of time to soak up the serenity before it gets too hot and the flowers start to droop.
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, when your actual date and departure time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Gyōda from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it and here’s where to buy a Japanese transit card and how to use it. (I searched the route from Shinjuku Station, because it’s huge and central, but you might find a closer place to catch the Shonan-Shinjuku Line, if you search from where you’re staying.)
When you get off the train at Gyōda Station, there’s usually a shuttle bus that runs between Gyōda Station and the Gyōda Ancient Lotus Park (Gyōda Hasu-en) during The Season, but because of the COVID, they’ve suspended it for 2020. You can still get there, but you have to take a taxi or the community bus. I searched everywhere for a Gyoda community bus schedule, but it’s surprisingly elusive, so I suggest taking a cab to get to the Lotus Park from the station, then finding the bus stop at the Lotus Park and using that to return to Gyōda Station.
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