Tokyo Park Treasures: Iris in the Rainy Season

Japan Racing Association

On June 5, my wife and I cycled to Mizumoto Koen, our favorite park in Tokyo. Our reason to go there on the 5th was the Katsushika Iris Festival 葛飾菖蒲まつり which is due to run until June 19th (Sunday).

We didn’t quite know what to expect. While we feared the area near the iris beds would be packed with people enjoying a flower festival after two years of cancellations across Japan, we were pleasantly surprised. There was a good crowd but not overwhelming and the flowers ー as expected ー were well worth the visit.

Hydrangeas, called ajisai in Japan, were also in full bloom. And the water lily flowers were just beginning to appear. More than the usual number of cormorants were resting or preening in the bird sanctuary.

more than flowers

Aside from the flowers themselves, there were a number of attractions that weren’t normally part of Mizumoto’s vibe.

A stage with live drummers and a flautist provided traditional music to a large number of dancers, mostly men and women in costume from the communities near the park. There were also a few ad hoc participants from the audience.

Young women in brightly colored kimono posed in various locations which provided a scenic backdrop. Each was surrounded by twenty or more men, most with an impressive array of camera gear, who had signed up for the photography event.

Street vendors and mobile food stalls, which are not normally present in Mizumoto, served long lines of hungry festival attendees and provided trinkets and balloons to children.

Mizumoto Park accepts dogs, although they must be leashed. There are dog races in the park.

What is planned

The June 12 program features an eclectic mix of hip hop dancing by Katsushika-area high school students and flower dancing.

Japanese percussion 和太鼓 lead the special attractions on June 19, as well as the flower dance.

Katsushika’s products go on sale June 12 and 19.

Food is available from a dozen stalls and vans. However, unless you like to wait in line, it’s best to bring your own food. The lines for these traveling vendors can be quite long, as is the case for the park’s small restaurant and snack bar.

The area surrounding the park is residential. It is some distance from the nearest restaurants and convenience stores.

There is also a barbecue area in the park. One must reserve.

Getting There

Cycling is the most enjoyable way to get to Mizumoto. The eastern edge of the park is bordered by the bicycle path on the west bank of the Edogawa River, while the western edge is a short distance from the bicycle path along Nakagawa.

During the Iris Festival, a shuttle bus (adults ¥220 JPY, children ¥110 JPY, day pass ¥520/260 JPY respectively) will operate on the weekends of June 11-12 and June 18-19. These operate on a circuit connecting 堀切菖蒲園 Horikiri Shoboen, しばられ地蔵 Shibare Jizo (5 minute walk from Mizumoto), 金町駅 Kanamachi Station, 柴又帝釈天 Shibamata Taishakuten, 亀有駅 Kameari Station.

Regular buses from Kanamachi also stop near Mizumoto. And a shuttle 水元公園循環バス(金63) operates on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays with a stop a minute’s walk from the park’s iris beds.

Parking for 1170 cars is available in Mizumoto. But it can fill up quickly on weekends. And the narrow two-lane roads serving the park will have long traffic jams during peak entry and exit times.

Accessibility

Mizumoto is largely flat with mostly paved or dirt paths. During my many visits to Mizumoto, I have always seen motorized and manual wheelchair users.

Other iris viewing locations

Horikiri Iris Garden

The same shuttle that goes to Mizumoto Koen also goes to Horikiri Shobuen (Horikiri Iris Garden). This is a municipally run garden on what was the site of a commercial garden, one of several such gardens that once existed in this area.

It is a ten-minute walk from Horikiri Shobuen Station on the Keisei Line. There are no admission fees.

The garden is flat and well prepared for wheelchair users and prams.

Because the Garden is dedicated to irises, with 200 cultivars and 6000 plants, it is a privileged place for floral photography. There is a wide variety of flowers to see.

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Horikiri Garden is surrounded by a quiet residential area.

Looking at the iris in the garden won’t take more than an hour or so and can easily be done in conjunction with a visit to Shibamata, the funky and traditional location that was the start and end point of the film series. immensely popular. It’s hard to be a man (Otoko ha tsurai yo).

Meiji Shrine Inner Garden

While Mizumoto Park and Horikiri Garden feature irises in a flat, open environment rather like paddy fields for rice, the inner garden of Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) resembles a formal Japanese garden with the iris planted in a series of beds in a winding valley.

The beds are not wide. Close-up shots of flowers not immediately adjacent to trails on either side of the valley only require a short telephoto lens.

The valley setting gives an overall vibe that we found more appealing than that of Mizumoto Park or Horikiri Garden.

The water lilies were also in bloom in the garden pond when we visited and attracted almost as much attention as the irises.

It is a short walk to the inner garden from JR East Harajuku Station, which is next to the main entrance of Meiji Shrine. There is an entrance fee of ¥500 JPY for adults.

The design of the inner garden makes it unsuitable for wheelchair users, although much of the rest of Meiji Shrine is barrier-free.

Koishikawa Korakuen

This Japanese-style formal garden is best known for its exceptional fall colors. But it also has a small but attractive iris zone which is currently in full bloom.

Although the iris beds are not in a valley like at Meiji Shrine. Instead, they are surrounded by very vivid greenery. A walk on one side of the flowerbeds allows for close-up photography and viewing of the flowers.

Moreover, since this garden does not attract crowds during the iris season unlike other gardens and parks, it is possible to watch and photograph more quietly.

As was the case with the inner garden of the Meiji Shrine, the water lilies were also in bloom.w

Unfortunately, a large part of the garden is not suitable for wheelchair users.

Conclusion

Although the rainy season in Japan means unpredictable weather, it is a great time for flowers, flower viewing, and flower photography.

Foggy or cloudy days make photography easier. An absence of strong sunlight means an absence of extreme contrast and glare from the wrong direction. Flowers and foliage shimmer while still wet from a shower.

The decline of the pandemic leads to the holding, sometimes on a reduced scale, of flower-themed festivals that have been canceled for two consecutive years.

In addition to the Katsushika Festival, the Hakusan Ajisai (Hydrangea) Festival will be held with certain limitations. Noted hydrangea observation sites were occupied in JAPAN Striker in 2021, in “Ajisai: Colors and Patterns that Light Up Japan’s Rainy Season”.

Whether it’s irises, hydrangeas, lotuses or other flowers, spring is a beautiful season in Japan. Don’t forget to have an umbrella or a kappa (simple raincoat) handy. Usually the showers don’t last long and everything is better afterwards.

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Author: Earl H. Kinmonth

Photographs by EH Kinmonth. Find more stories about Tokyo and its surroundings by Dr. Kinmonth on this link.

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