The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

As I wait for the snow to melt on the hyakumeizan peaks, I’m also visiting sites of interest and festivals (matsuri) taking place around Japan.

Flowers are a particularly important part of Japanese culture, and Bunkyo City, in Tokyo, celebrates five major flower festivals every year. Last weekend (June 9-10) was the Ajisai (Hydrangea) matsuri, celebrating the spectacular hydrangeas that bloom in Tokyo–and across Japan–each June.

On Sunday morning, I hopped a train to Hakusan Jinja (Shrine)–site of the Ajisai festival–where over 3,000 hydrangea bushes were covered in spectacular blooms.

My favorite variety have satellite flowers around a tightly-packed center:

We had a hydrangea bush in the back yard of my childhood home. I loved its enormous, puffy blooms–and seeing them in Japan reminds me of the happy days I spent playing near and beneath the hydrangea flowers.

As usual during a festival, vendors lined the grounds of Hakusan Jinja selling everything from yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) to candy, beer, and even roasted corn-on-the-cob.

I tend to bypass the “normal” fare–things I can easily get in the States, or even elsewhere in Tokyo–in favor of the seasonal, regional, or special matsuri treats. On Sunday, that meant dango–balls of glutinous rice that’s pounded into a paste and shaped, often with added flavorings or sweeteners. At the ajisai matsuri, I discovered special dango – one flavored with black sesame paste and rolled in sesame seeds, and the other covered in sugar and edible flowers:

They were delicious.

Hakusan Jinja has a special sacred hydrangea garden built on a hill. The flowers are spectacular, and visitors lined up for the chance to walk through the lovely space. I joined them, and was very glad I did.

The flowers there were even more amazing, in color and size, than the thousands of other hydrangea bushes growing around the grounds of the shrine–and that’s saying something, because all of the plants were truly spectacular.

After spending a lovely (if slightly drizzly) morning among the flowers, I hopped another train to the south end of Tokyo for lunch with my friend Claire Youmans, author of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy books – a fantastic historical fantasy series set in Meiji-era Japan.

It’s fantastic to have a good friend here in Tokyo!

I’m hoping to get back to the mountains later this week, if the weather permits. (We’ve had a little typhoon blow through Tokyo over the last few days.) If not, I’ll be heading out early next week – so check back soon. The adventure is just beginning.

Do you like hydrangeas? Which color is your favorite?


2 thoughts on “The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

  • June 17, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    Hallo, Hallo Ms Spann!!

    As you know, I positively LOVE hydrangeas! I have been absent for a number of weeks on your blog – forgive me! I was just starting to feel I could get back into reading after a bad Spring; whilst finding my ability to ‘read’ was marred a bit by the clustered migraines I had. It has taken me another week and a half to get comfortable again reading novels as a result!! Therefore, I happily loved seeing your photos streaming into my Twitter feeds – where I found a lovely snapshot you had shared about the hydrangeas not too long ago!

    I had no idea there was a proper festival to celebrate this happy flower! What a wonderful idea!?

    I find them one of the more cheerful flowers – the colour combinations I love most are violet/lavender with shades of blue. There is something rather calming and serendipitous about their markings! The lavender/mauve flowers you shared on this post are delightful, too, but a bit too pink!?

    #sohappy a friend of yours was there! Always lovely finding someone you know when you travel!

    The treats sound rather interesting! I never heard of those before… I love finding what you can use edible flowers for and I know their a favourite amongst bakers! I fancy baking myself quite a heap – I’d love to learn more about it as life moves forward, as I ache to bake more complicated creations (think: British Bake-Off!) or even curate my own living yeast to make better breads! I’d love to learn how to do all of this on a healthier kick too – vegan & gluten-free! 🙂

    Sorry to hear the weather turnt fowl – but as you said, the adventure is just beginning and there is plenty of time to conquer the rest of the #100Summits! Taking time out for #randomjoy, friends, and everyday adventures are equally imperative, I think!

    Blessed to be back on your blog – sending you hugs and smiles! As I watch the American Ninja Warriors this year, I’m thinking of you – as your the ninja on the mountains – #MountainNinja – a warrior in your own right and writing one incredible story each day you breathe in a new day of experiencing what Japan can teach you and show you! Thinking of you heaps and eagerly awaiting more of your blogs!

    • July 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Thank you Jorie! It’s great to see you back. I love it that you love hydrangeas the way I do, too!

Comments are closed.