Come for the purple, stay for the lights

Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi prefecture There’s only one reason to trek all the way out to Ashikaga at the beginning of May, and that’s to see the astoundingly huge wisteria at the Ashikaga Flower Park. But guess what? It’s amazing at other times of year too! The thing that’s special about Ashikaga isn’t justContinue reading “Come for the purple, stay for the lights”

The fabulous flower season that happens when nothing else is blooming

February in Japan is not fun. Cold and gray, its only festival involves demons, dry beans and smelly sardines. There would pretty much be nothing to look forward to, if it weren’t for the… Plum blossoms! And although their blooming doesn’t promise no more snow, plum trees bloom while every other flower and leaf isContinue reading “The fabulous flower season that happens when nothing else is blooming”

The weird world of bonsai chrysanthemums

Venerable bonsai pines, move over for…bonsai chrysanthemums! Yes, bonsai chrysanthemums are A Thing. And it happens in Japan every year in November. That’s when growers with wicked tricks for shaping this unlikely shrub with the meh flowers into things of wonder compete for most over-the-top shapes and unbelievable profusion. But those are just the warm-upContinue reading “The weird world of bonsai chrysanthemums”

Surprising flower extravaganzas of fall

Flowers that look small and humble by themselves, but are spectacular and mighty in great numbers When I started thinking about what’s so special about September in Japan, the first things that came to mind were three obscure flowers that are nobody’s favorite. By themselves, they’re utterly small and forgettable. You might even be aContinue reading “Surprising flower extravaganzas of fall”

A serene lotus garden grown from 3,000-year-old seeds

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 ancientContinue reading “A serene lotus garden grown from 3,000-year-old seeds”