You’ve probably seen / heard by now that the wisteria was incredibly early this year. Reportedly, they are already starting to wilt in some places. But never fear, there is still a couple of places you can see wisteria in Saitama Prefecture. Including an ancient wisteria that is one of my personal favourites. Kotsuhada no Fuji (Kotsuhada Wisteria) is located at Chosenji, a Buddhist temple and graveyard in Honjo City. When I visited on April 21st the wisteria was only at around 20% and is expected to reach full bloom this week…
Kotsuhada Wisteria, Kotsuhada no Fuji 骨波田の藤 in Japanese, is a designated natural monument of Saitama. It is approximately 650 years old, which blows the mind. But it is even more astounding to think that is almost half the age of the ancient wisteria of Ushijima! I cannot speak to the beauty of the Ushijima wisteria as I have not seen it personally myself. But I have seen another two dozen or so wisteria in Saitama Prefecture, some of which are also ancient, and for me, few of them compare to Kotsuhada.
I think there are five main reasons that Kotsuhada no Fuji impresses more than (most) others:
- The ‘Ofuji Shelf’, the spread of the wisteria as such, is approximately 2500 m².
- You can walk through the Kotsuhada Wisteria. There are several locations where you can walk under wisteria¹. However, the trellis at Chosenji is particularly low so you really feel like you are walking through rather than under the wisteria. Especially as the wisteria can drape as much as 150 centimeters. (¹Some locations, such as Aobaen, fence off their wisteria so you can’t actually walk under / near / through them!)
- The presentation of the wisteria at Chosenji is particularly scenic with additional features both in view of and under the trellis.
- You can view the wisteria at Chosenji from above, from the second floor of the temple gate. As per the featured photo at the top of the post. This is quite rare in my experience. Furthermore, they look like a sea of wisteria from above. Moreover, it means that you can get a decent photo of the wisteria even when they have just started blooming.
- There are eight other wisteria on the grounds. This in itself is not unusual. The aforementioned Aobaen has even more. But the difference at Chosenji is that they are all located next to each other, so it creates a large virtual sky of wisteria. In addition, there are some other flowers, such as azalea which are also currently in bloom.
The biggest surprise to me when I visited Chosenji, was how busy it was. The location is really remote, in the Kodama area of Honjo right on the border of Kamikawa town. Moreover, there is no public transport options nearby. Despite that there were far more people here than I’ve ever seen at Aobaen, which I’ve visited several times over the last few years. That fact is particularly surprising considering that the wisteria at Aobaen is located in Saitama city near Tokyo and is serviced by public transport!
Furthermore, the Kotsuhada Wisteria wasn’t even in full bloom, which was clearly stated on the website and at the entrance to the temple. So a lot of people knew the day they were visiting they weren’t going to get to see the wisteria in its full glory. However, some of the other wisteria – aged between 250 and 350 years old – are in bloom and the purple ones were in full bloom on Friday. The pink ones are almost full bloom and the white ones are only just starting now too. Typically, the wisteria at Chosenji bloom from late April until around mid May.
I am quite used to having locations to myself or just sharing them with a handful of other people, so it really was a surprise to see dozens of people at Chosenji. And there was no tour groups, just pairs or groups of individuals and a few lone explorers like myself too! Of course, as the wisteria is famous, I really shouldn’t have been surprised. But I thought due to its remote location and the fact that the Kotsuhada wisteria was not yet in full bloom that I would evade the crowds! I guess others had the same thought too!
Wisteria: Kotsuhada Wisteria / Kotuhada Wisteria / Kotuhada or Kotsuhada no Fuji 骨波田の藤
Dates: end of April to early or mid May
Hours: 8 am to 6 pm. Before the pandemic they would open late on select nights and light the wisteria up at night. However, in 2023, they will not be having a light up event.
Cost: the website states that there is a 500 yen entrance fee to the temple grounds during the period of bloom of the wisteria. However, there was a sign at the door saying 300 yen and that was what I was charged. I don’t know why it was cheaper on Friday, but maybe that was why it was so busy!?
Venue: Chosenji (Chosen-ji / Chosen Temple), 901 Kodamacho Takayanagi, Honjo, Saitama 367-0224. View on Google Maps.
The temple is quite difficult to get to by public transport. I think the nearest bus stop is “Kodama Minami” which is about a 35 minute walk from the temple. An Asahi bus goes to Kodama Minami bus stop from Honjo Station. Kodama station on the Hachiko line is closer, but as far as I know there is no bus to the area from that station. Its approximately four kilometers away so it would take about 50 minutes on foot from Hachiko station to the temple.
If you are coming by car, there is free parking for about 100 cars. Both the Honjo Kodama and Yorii Smart interchange are about a 20 minute drive from the temple. Please note for the latter, Yorii Smart Interchange you can only use it if you have an ETC card.