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.

This past week has been spent with family and friends for Christmas and New Year celebrations. We’ve enjoyed many of the Japanese New Year traditions together as a family, but we’ve also encompassed some New Year traditions from home. Including getting out and about in nature during the New Year.

I have had a few chances in the past week 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 from the last week, showcasing some of the flowers Japan has to offer around New Year’s:

January Flowers and Blooms

Flowers and blooms in Japan around the first week in January. The locations given in this post are in Saitama Prefecture, but most of these flowers 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

Believe it or not, even though it is bitter cold, flowers and tree flora have started to come into bloom. Including one of my all time favorites:

1. Robai / Wintersweet / Japanese Allspice

allspice january flower in Japan

There are some wintersweet, aka robai, in the massive Shinrin Park in Namegawa Town. They are scattered around the park. I went to see them on January 2nd and they were already at about 50% bloom. I didn’t know until today that Botanen also has some robai. (Botanen is just a short drive from Shinrin Park). They only planted them a couple of years ago. I don’t think I would have noticed them by sight, but thankfully I had smelt them as we were walking toward the playground and sniffed them out. It is such a distinct, beautiful scent. The best place for wintersweet in Saitama Prefecture is the robai-en (wintersweet grove) in Nagatoro. Moreover, they have a wintersweet festival annually. You can find even more places to see wintersweet here.

2. Daffodils

January flowers Japan - daffodils

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 2022 season. The flowers started to open around December 15th 2021. In a non pandemic year there is a daffodil festival. However, due to the pandemic there was none in either 2021 or 2022. There are other parks that have daffodils, but they actually don’t bloom until March or April.

3. Plum Blossoms

january flowers japan plum blossom

The best time to see plum blossoms is generally February, but the plum blossoms in Shinrin Park can start to bloom as early as the first week in January. Likewise in Higashimatsuyama Botanen, there were quite a few opening up during the first week in January. The park is not particularly known for them, but there are actually quite a few plum blossom trees in the park. 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. There is also a plum blossom festival on Mt Hodo, beside the Robai-en wintersweet grove mentioned above.

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. Winter peonies

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.

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 in Minano, but they bloom later in winter. However, in Fukaya Green Kingdom they bloom from around mid January.

9. Viola

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.

10. 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 cherry blossoms. There are also pansies in Shinrin Park in January.

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

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