January 2020

A selection of 10 flowers that bloom in Japan in January.

I say it often, because it is true, but my favorite month in Japan is January. There is so much to do in Japan in January. And as it is one of the driest months of the year, it is ideal for enjoying the outdoors. 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. Moreover, January brings flowers and blooms, even as early as New Years.

I have had a few chances in the past week, thanks to New Year holidays, to combine five of my great loves – family, outdoors, flowers, walking and photography. Regarding the latter, I am not particularly good, but I do love taking photos. Here are a few flower photos I’ve taken in January this year and over the last few years:

January Flowers and Blooms

Flowers and blooms in Japan in January. Believe it or not, most of the photos in this post were taken in the first week of January. Yes, even the plum blossoms. The locations given in this post are mainly for Saitama Prefecture. But for the first three (wintersweet, daffodils and plum blossoms) I have included lots of additional information as well as other places you can see those flowers outside of Saitama Prefecture. But all ten on this list bloom in almost every prefecture in Japan around January:

  1. Wintersweet
  2. Narcissus / Daffodils
  3. Plum Blossoms
  4. Camellia – Sasanqua and (kan/) tsubaki
  5. Winter Peonies
  6. Roses – winter roses and Sweet Drift
  7. Snowdrops
  8. Fukujusou
  9. Viola
  10. Pansies

1. Robai / Wintersweet / Japanese Allspice

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. As of January 4th 2023, they have already started to bloom in Shinrin park and Hodosan Robaien.

Robai aka wintersweet aka allspice , one of several January flowers in Japan

Saitama Prefecture is actually one of the best prefectures for wintersweet in all of Japan. I learned this when I first started wintersweet hunting several years ago. Yadoriki Garden in Kanagawa claim to have the largest “robaien” wintersweet grove with 3000 trees, but actually the Hodosan Robaien (Nagatoro, Saitama) also have about 3000 trees. Moreover, we have several different wintersweet groves and wintersweet festivals in Saitama Prefecture. Here is a small sample of some of the largest wintersweet groves in Saitama.

Other places in Japan renowed for wintersweet

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 these sites:

2. January Daffodil flowers

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.

Bunch daffodils one of several January Flowers in Saitama Prefecture
Bunch Daffodils, December 18th 2022! And still in bloom January 2023

One of the best places to see daffodils in the Kanto plain is Gongendo Park in Satte City, Saitama Prefecture. They have at least 500,000 daffodils in a given year. They typically start to bloom around early January. But sometimes they flower from as early as mid December. As is the case for the 2023 season. The park will have a daffodil festival in 2023 for the first time in three years. Another park that has daffodils, although in much smaller numbers, in December / January is Heisei no Mori Park in Kawajima Town. At the end of January you can see daffodils with wintersweet in Tokigawa town. There are also other parks that have daffodils, but they actually don’t bloom until March or April.

Other places for daffodils in January 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 these sites:

  • Echizen in Fukui Prefecture, one of the most famous and best places for daffodils in all of Japan.
  • Kasai Rinka Park in Tokyo. They have a daffodil festival, but its usually in early February.
  • Jogashima Park in Kanagawa

3. Early Blooming Plum Blossoms

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. The photo below was taken today -January 4th 2023:

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

Places you can see plum blossoms in January in Saitama Prefecture include, Shinrin Park, Higashimatsuyama Botanen and Omiya Hana no Oka. One of the best places to see plum blossoms in the Kanto region is in Ogose in Saitama Prefecture. The Ogose Bairin is one of three famous plum blossom groves. They have a plum blossom festival each year. There is also a plum blossom festival on Mt Hodo, beside the Robai-en wintersweet grove mentioned above.

Other places for plum blossoms in January in Japan

  • Kairakuen Garden in Ibaraki. Like the plum blossom groves above, the best time to visit Kairakuen is actually mid February to early March. But you can see some in bloom from around mid January.
  • Bairin Park in Gifu.
  • Atami Plum Garden in Shizuoka. Generally considered the first place for plum blossoms.

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. Probably no surprise to hear that Shinrin Park has sasanqua! Shinrin Park really is a great place to visit for flowers all year round. 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 at Heisei no Mori park (left photo) and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (right photo).

5. January / Winter peony flowers

winter peony and yukigakoi at Higashimatsuyama Botanen
Winter peonies and yukigakoi

In recent years, Higashimatsuyama Botanen has a winter peony display 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. They were specially cultivated to withstand the cold and the yukigakoi help protect them against the elements too. The winter peony event starts this Sunday, the 8th of January 2023.

6. Winter Roses

Winter Roses are not as common as Autumn Roses, but there are some places around Saitama Prefecture where you can see winter roses. No surprise that Shinrin Park is one such place. They also have hybrid roses such as “Sweet Drift”.

7. Snowdrops

Such a beautiful flower, but surprisingly not that common in Japan. In Saitama Prefecture, the best place to see snowdrops is in Shinrin park. However, you can also see them in Fukaya Green Kingdom.

8. Fukujusou

Fukujusou is a flower native to Japan. It has a botanical name in English, Adonis Ramosa, but it is most commonly referred to as its Japanese name, even in English. Saitama Prefecture is quite well known for its Fukujusou flowers, particularly in Minano. But the Minano Fukujusou bloom later in winter. However, in Fukaya Green Kingdom they bloom from around mid January. And in Shinrin Park you can see them with the early blooming blossoms from around late January too.

9. Viola

Violas one of several January flowers in Japan, in Okegawa
Taken January 3rd 2023

Fukaya Green Park (not to be confused with Fukaya Green Kingdom), at Patio Aqua Paradise, has a large viola display that start to bloom in January and bloom right up to May. Shinrin Park also have viola in winter. Last year, when I visited Kakyu no Sato at the end of January, there were viola in bloom there too. Shiroyama park in Okegawa has viola in bloom right now.

10. Pansies

Pansies were derived from viola, so while all pansies are violas, not all violas are pansies! Omiya Hana no Oka in Saitama City has a relatively large display of pansies in winter. They bloom right through to April when you can see them bloom with both cherry blossoms and tulips. There are also pansies in Shinrin Park.

Have you been out and about this January? Have you noticed any other flowers in bloom?

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

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