Suigo Sawara Ayame Park
The Aquatic Irises Garden Near Tokyo
Suigo Sawara Ayame Park is an aquatic botanical garden located in Katori city’s tiny Yodaura Bay, Chiba prefecture, in the east of Tokyo. It is renowned for Ayame Matsuri, a flower festival held in June where more than a million of irises of 400 different species bloom. The park is crossed by waterways offering pleasant boat rides.
Suigo Sawara Ayame Park is a Japanese garden like no other as it focuses on aquatic plants. The park occupies a part of Yodaura Bay in the wet plain encompassing several lakes and rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean in Chiba prefecture’s northeastern side.
The aquatic garden benefits from a direct access by bus from Tokyo Station and it is strongly recommended to visit during the two main blooming periods in summer:
- From the end of May to the end of June for irises (Ayame Matsuri),
- In July for lotus (Hasu Matsuri).
The walk surrounded by irises
In early June, the park is at its peak and its aquatic fields see more than one million of irises of 400 different species blooming. The scenery looks like a real-life master’s painting in which a path is winding among flowers of various hues : violet, pale purple, pink, white or yellow. The course was well-thought to induce the feeling of immersion in a colored flowery Eden while avoiding uniformity.
The visit is further enlivened by:
- A berthing pier, for the boats touring the garden,
- A long wooden pergola sustaining huge wisteria trees,
- Boardwalks to get the closest as possible to the ornamental flowers,
- An elevated observation platform with an unobstructed view over the park,
- Several small Japanese bridges crossing the canals.
Irises are planted by species, with their names written in Japanese on lovely wood panels. However, there is no writing either in romaji nor in English or any brochure available.
A matsuri festival is held each year for the blooming of irises. At this occasion, the number of boat rides is increased, with departures every 30 minutes, and boats are conducted by helmsmen and helms-women in traditional costumes. The more lucky visitors may encounter the beautiful procession of a Japanese wedding. Stalls are also available to buy plants grown in the park, local delicacies and snacks for a quick meal.
An aquatic plant garden to visit in summer
There is also a large space dedicated to various lotus species in Suigo Sawara Ayame Park. They bloom in July and sometimes until August, a period during which is held the Hasu Matsuri, however of a minor scale compared to the iris festival. The park offers an interesting selection of this aquatic plant typical of temples in Japan. As a matter of fact, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity in Buddhism, and is associated to spiritual elevation and reincarnation.
Beside irises and lotus, it is also possible to find plum trees, hydrangeas and various species of water lillies throughout the place. There is also an outdoor playground for children.
It is recommended to combine the visit of this botanical garden with the discovery of the Sawara historical zone in Katori, or of Narita’s traditional downtown, to enjoy a full day-trip outside the Japanese capital. Those who love irises are well advised to continue the visit in Suigo Ayame Itako Gardens, located three kilometers away on the other side of Hitachitone River.