Kinsenji Temple is located in rural Ranzan. Best known for its hydrangea that bloom in early summer, the temple also has a giant gingko tree that turns golden yellow in Autumn. In 2022, for the first time in three years, the temple are opening their hydrangea garden to the public again.
Kinsenji: the Hydrangea Temple
The hydrangea of Kinsenji Temple, perched on a lush hillside, have created quite a name for themselves. Thanks to online videos, photos and posts, the otherwise unknown temple in bucolic Ranzan, has come into the spotlight. It is drawing more visitors annually in June, than there are flowers. And with 5,800 hydrangea to boast, that’s a lot of people flocking to the temple for worship.
Due to the popularity of the temple during hydrangea season, it is not uncommon for the parking area to be full. Most people come to regard the many-colored hydrangea that wind up and down the mount beside the temple. However, please note it is respectful to also pay homage while there. However, you can not purchase goshuin (temple seal) without a prior reservation.
There are several hydrangea around the temple too, but the majority are on the exigent hill. There are also some peruvian, orange, pink and yellow lilies dotted around the hillside. (And there is one lotus in a pond too!)
What I loved about the walk, apart from its maze like path and of course the flowers, is that they have various proverbs and sagely advice placards posted among the flowers. It became a bit of a treasure hunt for me to see how many I could find. I had counted over 50 before I realized that there were duplicates. So I don’t know how many there are, but it added intrigue to the already alluring walk.
There are other photogenic spots around the temple itself. With statues, wooden and stone faces, water features, the gingko tree and the temple itself there is plenty to discover and aspect for the shutterbug.
The flowers have actually been there for more than thirty years, but it is only thanks to the viral potency of sites like Instagram that the masses have come to learn of this hydrangea temple in rural Saitama. The hydrangea of Kinsenji have created quite a social media frenzy with dozens of posts vying for a coveted spot on the hydrangea hashtag leader board.
About Kinsenji Hydrangea Temple
Kinsenji is a temple of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism. The temple has been at its current location for just over 300 years. However, it was founded a further 97 years before that. It was moved when fires threatened its sanctuary. When they moved it they planted a gingko tree to afford it protection from the winds of Ranzan. That gingko tree still stands strong. And tall. Supposedly its more than 30 meters high. I am keen to see it in its garb of gold in Autumn.
There is a playground, a play area and a basketball court on the temple grounds. The play area is shaded and has two small pieces of play equipment suited to toddlers. The playground is mainly for older children with wooden swings galore and a zip line. One of the swings can fit six kids sitting side by side!
Rest Area / Other
There are rest areas in front and to the side of the temple. One of those areas has a small shop that sells kakigori. You can also buy a cooled cucumber on a stick from a help yourself cooler box in front of the temple. There is a vending machine on side of the temple, beside the lotus pond. This pond is at the path that leads to the public toilets and past them, further down the hill, is where the playground is tucked away. *Please note that in 2022 although the hydrangea are open to the public again, you cannot use the indoor toilet. There is a toilet outdoors.*
Reasons to visit Ranzan
Just another reason to visit Ranzan this summer. In case you missed the other posts, here are some other reasons to visit Ranzan in early summer:
- The lavender festival at Japan’s largest lavender field
- Ranzan Valley Barbecue site, frequently voted as the number one place to barbecue on a river
- Luxurious barbecue and outdoor cafe, glamping style, at Fukurou No Mori
Please note that during the pandemic, in both 2020 and 2021, the temple was closed to the public during hydrangea season. Moreover, they cut the hydrangea down in 2021. However, they have confirmed that they will open the garden once again in 2022. They request that you personally take all necessary precautions to prevent catching or spreading the coronavirus.
Season: the whole month of June. For the last few years they have been blooming as early as the last week in May. Sometimes they stretch to early July. In fact, in 2022 they once again started to bloom early. The temple announced the hydrangea ‘opening’ on May 21st.
Address: 1122 Oppata, Ranzan, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0206
Hydrangea Temple Access
There are two main entry points to the temple. I took the scenic route along a stunning old narrow country road to the North west, with only the width for one car at a time. There is easier access from the South east with a wider newer road.
The Kanetsu expressway actually runs along the West side of the temple, which you only realize when you hike up to the top of the mount and you can see it on the other side. The nearest exit is the Ranzan Ogawa Interchange. It is a five to six minute drive to the temple from that exit. There is plenty of parking and it is free.
If you are coming by public transport the easiest station to alight at is Ogawamachi Station on the Tobu Tojo line. From there you can get a bus to nearby , 三ツ沼 bus stop, and walk 1.7 kilometers to the temple. Some of the route is uphill, but it only takes about 22 minutes.