Mitsuba Azalea Garden, the “Purple Mountain” of Saitama Prefecture – We’ve been uncovering several of Saitama secret gems these past few weeks. Today’s adventure brought us on to the Purple Mountain “Murasaki Yama” in Ogose Town. Three thousand Mitsuba Azalea – Rhododendron dilatatum – over three hectares of a privately owned (339 meter at its peak) mountain, the stunning garden of the owners. Spring scenery in Japan right now!
When you approach the area you see azalea and a yellow flower on the side of the mountain. Many people make the mistake that this is the “Purple Mountain” supposedly. We almost did ourselves. But I was keen to walk to the top of the steep road running alongside the first floral display. And I am so glad I did.
When you pass the first display and round the corner you catch a glimpse of the treat that is in store. Follow the road along the thick cedar cypress forest until the driveway of the hillside house and soon the purple spruces light up the mountainside and take your breath away. If the steep climb to 274 meters hasn’t taken it away already!
You walk down a path into the Mitsuba Azalea Garden. First, through some pink azalea and then cross a bridge over a deep but very narrow gorge with a shallow mountain river. There is a donations box as you reach the other side, just in front of the “Murasaki Yama” beautifully sculpted hand made sign. We always make sure to give a generous donation to places like this so that they will be maintained for future generations.
You can climb to the top of this side of the mountain to the “Purple mountain look out”, which is about 300 meters high, along the way you pass some katakuri, a type of fawnlily, also purple in colour. They are already passed their peak this year. There are also some Azuma Shakunage or azuma rhododendron which – no surprises – are another purple flower!
Just past the fawnlily the path forks. From here, you can walk around to the other side of the mountain where even more purple and some pink azalea are planted. And due to the warmer than normal winter, the majority of them are already in full bloom. There is a rest area here, where they have bottled green tea you can buy for 100 yen (on the honor system – pop a 100 yen in the basket provided next to the beverage).
–The Purple Mountain–
We’ve been a lot of places in the last four weeks, some of them worthy of a place in Japan’s top 100 spring scenes – such as the 2000 cherry blossoms on Torayama – but there was something about this place today that particularly impressed me. Maybe part of it was that I love the color purple! Or maybe I like azalea more than I realize, because as I think of it now I think I chose the azalea of Godaison (also Ogose) as my “favorite” of April 2019.
But I think rounding the corner from a shadowy forest view to an idyllic open valley bursting in purple was an awakening. The craggy hills, wild and rich in natural terrain, and the tranquil setting add to the ambiance. And knowing that the owners hand planted these flowers and landscaped the scene gives a deeper appreciation and sense of gratitude of / for the purple mountain.
Mitsuba Azalea Garden Information
As this garden / purple mountain is that of a private resident, there is no official website, but there is some information on the official Ogose Town website. The 3000 Mitsuba Azalea (Mitsuba Tsutsuji) typically bloom the first two weeks in April. This year, 2020, the full bloom was a little earlier than the average on April 6th. They will hopefully remain in bloom for another week or two.
The garden is free, but as I said above there is a donation’s box. Any contribution will help to maintain the area. Parking is free if you use the Kumano Shrine car park. I believe the car park at the Kuroyama falls is also free. There are no official hours, but as it is a private residence the best time is probably between 9 am and 4 pm.
Purple Mountain Access
There is a road up to the gardens, but there is nowhere to park. You will need to park somewhere along the “Ogose Nagasawa line”, aka route 61, road.
A good spot is the free public car lot beside Kumano shrine, at the foot of the mountain. However, during busy times this is often full. I saw a recommendation from another blogger that you can park at the car park for the Kuroyama Falls, if that too isn’t full! (Source: Tekutekune blog, Japanese language only. )
Opposite the Kumano shrine is Zendo Temple (Zendoin). This temple does not have a car park. But there is a bus stop just beside it. You can get a Kawagoe Kanko bus from Ogose Station on the Tobu Ogose Line bound for Kuroyama. Please note it is quite infrequent.