Winter flowers in Japan

A selection of 15 flowers and tree blossoms that bloom in winter in Japan.

Winter is quite dry in Japan, particularly in comparison to where I am from (Ireland). Sure, its cold, but if you wrap up well and / or are moving it doesn’t feel that cold, especially when the sun is shining. December has the least amount of flowers, but there are some to enjoy. Moreover, you can still see winter cherry blossoms (which actually start to bloom in October) in early December. In addition, you can also see Autumn leaves in early December too. But January brings many flowers and tree blossoms, even as early as New Years. Many of which you can see right into February. Moreover, February also brings more plum blossoms as well as Kawazuzakura, an early blooming cherry blossom.

You might also like: 20 things to do in Japan in January and / or 12 things to do in (Saitama in) February.

Winter Flowers and Blooms in Japan

  1. Robai / Wintersweet / Japanese Allspice
  2. Daffodil flowers
  3. Plum Blossoms / Ume
  4. Camellia / Sasanqua / Tsubaki / Kantsubaki
  5. Pansy / Viola
  6. Christmas Roses
  7. Fukujusou / Adonis Ramosa
  8. Rapeseed / Canola / Nanohana
  9. Kawazuzakura / Kawazu Cherry Blossoms
  10. Winter Cherry Blossoms
  11. Ice tulips
  12. Snowdrops
  13. Witch Hazel
  14. Winter Peony Flowers
  15. Ornamental Cabbage

1. Robai / Wintersweet / Japanese Allspice

Winter flowers in Japan Wintersweet at Shinrin park January in Japan used as the feature photo for 10 places to see wintersweet in Saitama Prefecture

Flower: Wintersweet also known as Japanese Allspice or Wax Plum. Occasionally you will see the translation “candle plum”. In Japanese, Roubai / Robai 蠟梅 ロウバイ, the wax plum name comes from this the Japanese (and Chinese) kanji for the tree. 蠟 rou means wax and 梅 bai (pronounced ume when the kanji is on its own) means plum.

Flower Meaning: The flower represents ‘deep affection between parents and children’. It is also said to represent: refined, benevolence, kindness, guidance and foresight.

Flower day: Wintersweet is the flower of both January 2nd and January 21st.

Season: Wintersweet bloom as early as mid December and as late as mid February. Generally, the best time to see them is from mid January to early February.

Where to find wintersweet in Japan

Each of these are linked to sites with information in English. Therefore, not always the official website. I have no affiliation to any of the external sites:

2. (Winter) Daffodil flowers

Bunch daffodils one of several flowers that bloom in winter in Japan
Bunch Daffodils, December 18th 2022! And still in bloom January 2023

Flower: Daffodils are called Suisen in Japanese, but the word is also used for Narcissus flowers and Bunch Daffodils too. Suisen is written in katakana mostly, but there is a kanji too – 水仙. The first kanji “sui” means water and the “sen” means immortal or, when compounded, hermit. There is a specific word for daffodils “rappa suisen”, but I don’t think it is used very often.

Flower meaning: As you might guess from the “narcissus” name the flower is interpreted to mean self-love and egotism. “Rappa Suisen” means unrequited love. Both a stark contrast to the flower’s meaning in the West, where it represents rebirth and new beginnings.

Flower Day: narcissus are the flower of several dates, including January 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 13th and April 3rd. Daffodils “Rappa suisen” is the flower of January 16th and February 9th, 16th and March 1st.

Season: the season of daffodils, bunch daffodils and narcissus differs greatly. This post concentrates on the daffodils that bloom from around mid December to the end of January. April is another time of the year you can see large daffodil displays in some locations.

Where to find daffodils in Japan

Each of these are linked to external sites with information in English. Therefore, generally not the official website. I have no affiliation to any of the external sites:

3. Plum Blossoms

Plum blossoms in bloom on January 4th 2023 in Saitama Prefecture. One of several winter flowers in Japan.
Plum blossoms in bloom January 4th in Saitama City

Flower: Plum blossoms, which are called “ume” 梅 in Japanese.

Flower meaning: The flower language for plum blossoms in general is “nobility,” “faithfulness,” and “patience.” But there is a separate meaning by color too. For example, white plums represent dignity. In English speaking countries, they can mean fidelity, beauty and longevity and keeping a promise.

Flower Day: plum blossoms are the flower of January 3rd, February 1st, 7th and October 24th.

Season: February is associated with plum blossoms in Japan. And that is generally the best time to see them. But there are early blooming plum blossoms that bloom as early as December. However, most of the early blooming start to middle of January. Even those that are not of the early blooming variety can start to bloom as early as January.

Where to find plum blossoms in Japan

Some other, perhaps lesser known, January blooms in Japan;

4. Camellia

There are two types of camellia you can see in winter in Japan. The sasanqua and the tsubaki. Tsubaki actually bloom twice in the year. The kantsubaki bloom in winter. Kan represents cold, so the camellia that can grow in the cold. There are literally thousands of places you can see tsubaki around Japan. It is a bloom that has been revered from early times. The photos above were taken in Saitama Prefecture, at Heisei no Mori park (left photo) and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (middle photo) and my own camellia in my garden here in Saitama, Japan!

Where to find camellia in Japan

5. Pansy / Viola

Pansies were derived from viola, so while all pansies are violas, not all violas are pansies! In some locations they don’t have a pansy display until spring. But pansy can grow from October right through to May! They make an ideal winter flower display. The ones listed below are generally on display from early winter until the cherry blossoms bloom in spring.

Places to see pansies in winter in Japan

You can normally also see them in Gunma Flower Park, but the Gunma Flower Park is closed this winter (2024) for renovations.

6. Christmas Roses

Not surprisingly, Christmas roses are really popular in Japan. Although, there aren’t that many places with a large scale display of them. I always wondered about their name! Because they look nothing like roses and don’t grow in any way similar either. However, they are also known as Hellebore flowers in English. In both the English and Japanese language of flowers they are said to mean “relieve my anxiety”. They are the birth flower of November 16th, December 13th and December 26th. They are a winter flower, said to bloom between December and February. However, many parks actually grow them to bloom in spring. Below is examples of where you can find them in winter.

Where to find Christmas Rose in Japan

7. Fukujusou

Fukujusou a flower native to Japan that grows in winter. Like a buttercup

Fukujusou is a flower native to Japan. It has a botanical name in English, Adonis Ramosa or sometimes Amur adonis, but it is most commonly referred to as its Japanese name, even in English. It is said that it is the flower of the New Year and is sometimes called ‘ganjitsu sou’. Ganjitsu is New Years Day. Therefore, it is frequently used in New Year decorations. Fukujusou is said to represent happiness and longevity in the Japanese language of flowers. However, in English it is said they mean “sorrowful rememberance”. They are the birth flower of January 3rd, 4th, 12th, February 26th and April 6th.

Where to find Fukujusou in Japan

8. Rapeseed / Canola flowers

One of my personal favorites, rapeseed aka canola flowers, grow wild in hundreds of locations around Japan. You can normally find the wild ones on or near embankments. Some parks also grow the flower, known as nanohana in Japanese. However, they have very different growing seasons by region. In some areas they don’t appear until spring. But thankfully there are plenty of places you can see rapeseed in winter. Some as early as December.

Where to see Canola flowers in Japan in Winter

The examples below are specifically for February and / or winter:

9. Kawazuzakura

Even just thinking of Kawazuzakura brings a smile to my face. Kawazuzakura are a type of early blooming cherry blossom tree. They typically bloom in February, often from mid February to the end of the month or early March. They are a particularly stunning tree blossom. Kawazuzakura are named for the region for which they are best known – Kawazu in Shizuoka. It is also one of the earliest places you can see these variety of cherry blossoms in Japan.

Places for Kawazuzakura in Japan

10. Winter Cherry Blossoms

Although called Winter Cherry Blossoms in English, they actually bloom in Autumn mainly. One of the varieties is called Jyugatsu sakura which translates to October cherry blossoms. As you have probably guessed, the October cherry blossoms bloom in October! However, they are a long blooming blossom. But they blossom in spurts, rather than all at once. So they don’t have the same fullness as spring sakura. Unlike in spring when they only bloom for about ten days, winter cherry blossoms bloom for about 8 weeks. Hence, you can still see them early in winter, in the first week or two of December.

Where to find winter cherry blossoms in Japan

There are three famous winter cherry blossom locations –

Other winter flowers in Japan

The examples for number 11 to 15 are specific to Saitama Prefecture which is beside Tokyo.

11. Ice tulips

I dream of a day that we can see fields of ice tulips, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is such a magnificent scene in Japan somewhere. However, as if an answer to my previous statement, in 2024 Metsa village will have a display of approximately 3000 ice tulips! You can also see them in flower beds in other locations, such as at Shinrin Park. There the ice tulips are at the central gate and at the botanical garden for most of winter. You can also usually see ice tulips from around mid to late December through to January in Funabashi Andersen park in Chiba and Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki.

12. Snowdrops

Winter flowers in Japan snowdrop

Such a beautiful flower, but surprisingly not that common in Japan. In both the English and Japanese language of flowers they are said to represent “hope” and “consolation”. They are the flower of January 1st, 7th, 16th, February 2nd and 26th. In Saitama Prefecture, the best place to see snowdrops is in Shinrin park. However, you can also see them in Fukaya Green Kingdom.

13. Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel grows in winter in Saitama Prefecture Japan

Witch Hazel is aptly named, in my humble opinion, due to its bewitching beauty! Its such a unique flower. There are different varieties including Japanese witch hazel, which, as the name implies, is native to Japan. Its a flowering plant in the family of Hamamelidaceae. The best time to see them depends on the region. They can bloom anytime between January and March. The photo above was taken in Chikozan Park which has a few different varieties of Witch Hazel, but only one or two of each. In my experience, the ones in that park bloom from the end of January to early February. However, in some other parks, such as Omiya Hana no Oka, they typically don’t bloom until March.

14. Winter peony flowers

winter peony and yukigakoi at Higashimatsuyama Botanen Saitama Japan
Winter peonies and yukigakoi

Peony are a spring flower, but in winter you can see some winter peony that were cultivated to withstand the cold. Moreover, they are usually displayed with yukigakoi, a type of protective bamboo display. Botanen has the largest peony garden in all of Japan, but their winter display is actually really small. In spring you can see about 6500 peonies in the garden, but in January there is only a handful. In Tokyo, Ueno Toshogu Peony Garden is quite well known for its winter peony.

15. Ornamental Cabbage

Ornamental cabbage one of the winter flowers in Japan

Ornamental Cabbage (Habotan) is a common flower in winter in flower beds in parks around Japan. I remember the first time I saw them, they were quite withered and I thought how peculiar to grow cabbage in a flower bed! But once I saw them in their prime, the following year, I understood the appeal of this long blooming plant. They can actually be consumed too. But while they look sweet they taste very bitter and need a thorough clean and boiling. Best to admire them flower than eat them! The ornamental cabbage pictured above was taken in January in Shiroyama Park in Okegawa City.

There are also other flowers and tree blossoms you can see late in Winter. For example, Mimosa. But Mimosa (or whattle) is known as a spring blossom. Same for several other variations of cherry blossom trees. And also for flowers such as crocus which for some signal the start of spring, particularly in Hokkaido. There are also winter varieties of roses, such as sweetdrift, that bloom in January. Unique to Japan winter flowers include the beautiful Setsbunso. There is a large, rare colony of setsubunso in Ogano in Saitama Prefecture, with a festival annually.

Have you seen any winter flowers in Japan? Is there any you would add to this list?

This post is an update of an older post with URL ‘photo-friday-january-2020-week-1’ posted 20200103.

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