Azalea Ogose – beautiful azalea sightseeing spot in Ogose town, Saitama.
It is a little sad when the prunus (plum, cherry, peach blossoms) finish in Japan. But only a wee bit, because right behind them comes a multitude of equally stunning flora. Straight after the yaezakura, a late blooming cherry blossom, the moss phlox are in bloom. Then azaleas and peonies (among others) come into bloom. They are finishing now, but we have roses peaking through and poppies only days away. Then there are the hydrangea… We really are blessed with the distinct flowering seasons in Japan.
Earlier in the year, we were fortunate enough to go see the plum blossoms in Ogose Bairin. Ogose is most famed for these, the plum blossoms, as the Ogose Bairin is one of the three “great” plum blossom groves of the Kanto plain. Curiously though, the official flower of Ogose is the yellow rose – for which it is not renowned! Ogose is also popular for hiking, especially around the waterfalls. But in more recent years – although the flowers have actually existed for 300 years – the area is enjoying increased fame for its azalea.
On our way home from the plum blossom grove we passed near the entrance of the azalea park. It had very clear banners advertising its existence. When I got home I researched and bookmarked the park for a visit this spring.
Godaison Azalea Park
Godaison Tsutsuji Park is a park of 10,000 azalea flowers at a site of worship to the five great reverence of Buddhism. It was created to mimic the 88 temples of Shikoku and the Japan 100 Kannon. The latter is a pilgrimage circuit in which Saitama features a lot. Godaison was the name given to the area after the five great reverence, also translated to the five Buddhist deities. Tsutsuji means azalea.
Unfortunately, there is such a mishmash of English and Japanese used in translations with little consistency, that the park has ended up as Godaison Tsutsuji park officially in English. Even though Godaison Azalea park is probably more accurate and / or easily understood by non Japanese speakers. (Godaison is not translated as it is more a place name than a description).
Azalea at Godaison
There are approximately 10,000 azalea comprising five main shades with several variations at Godaison. They typically bloom at the end of April to early May. This year, 2019, the official season was from April 20th until May 6th. However, I visited today, May 7th, and while the peak is past, there is still a large percentage of the flowers in full bloom.
The flowers are spread across five areas interlinked with walkways. All are on a hillside and in some places the incline is quite steep. Their location on an incline makes the scene most dramatic as you approach it as you can appreciate somewhat of a bird’s eye view from below. The top of the hill also provides a great view of Ogose town below.
In most places around the hills, they have put in either paved walkways with support rails on one side, or makeshift steps with a wooden block to make the ascent safer and easier.
On the net I had read that it costs 300 yen into the park and that you have to pay for parking. I didn’t pay a thing! I can only speculate that because today is outside of the official flower period for 2019, that I didn’t have to pay. The car park was free and there was no ticket gate into the park. I could see the portacabin they use for reception, but it had been put away behind a house in storage for next year I guess.
Shrines at Azalea Ogose Godaison
There is one shrine deep in the woods on the south end as well as two other shrines near the car park on the north end. You can see one of the shrines as you approach, with its beautiful red torii backdropped by the vibrant flowers.
There is also another shrine and burial place on the south end, which was off access from the park today. They have built a new dam at the edge of the south end and are currently working on refining it. Beside the dam there is a picturesque babbling brook.
I was glad I made the 35 minute car journey to see the azalea in Ogose today. The bursts of colour on the hill really do look spectacular. I do think that even for those coming by train or from further afield that, if you combine the visit with an extended hike in the area or a ramble around town, that it is worth the journey. The flowers won’t last much longer though so I would say if you can’t make it in the next few days, maybe hold off until next year when they will be in bloom again.
Azalea Ogose Information
Season: end of April to early May
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm during the festival
Cost: 300 yen for anyone over the age of 12 during the festival season only
The Azalea in Ogose (Godaison Tsutsuji Park) are about a fifteen minute walk from Ogose station. Ogose station is on both JR Hachiko and Tobu Ogose lines.
By car, the nearest interchange is the Tsurugashima interchange on the Kanetsu expressway. It is about a fifteen minute drive from the park. There are three official parking lots. Like the park, they are charged during the three weeks of the festival, but free otherwise. It costs 500 yen per car.
In the area:
Yu (or You) Park Ogose – campsite with log cabins, trailer house, pao and indoor play area and pools:
Ogose Bairin Plum Blossom Grove