Seasonal blooms and Riverside hydrangea, Okegawa. Sometimes it pays to get lost. I was attempting to go to one of the three safflower fields in Okegawa today. The safflower were nowhere in sight and I thought that both I and Google had remembered the place incorrectly. So I opted to abandon Google maps direction and let destiny direct us. We didn’t find the safflower – as it turns out they didn’t grow the safflower in this particular field this year. But what we did find was infinitely better: 620 hydrangea lining a small river and stretching for about 400 meters.
Rakusato no Kai
I didn’t recognize the site, but when I got home to research it I realized I had visited it years ago to see the cherry blossoms there. The cherry blossoms stretch for even further – for the full kilometre of what is called the Ishikawa Ditch (also sometimes referred to as the Ishikawa River or Naka Ditch). At that time the sakura had only just been planted so they didn’t look much. But seeing pictures of them from 2020, they have come on a lot. They still aren’t as breathtaking as most, but I definitely want to check them out in person next year.
Update March 9th 2021: there are some blooms on some of the trees. However, for the most part the majority of the sakura went from buds to green without blooming.
The river / ditch has agriculture roads either side of it. They are quite wide and not used by regular traffic so it is easy to walk comfortably along the side of the picturesque river. There are two places along the route where you can cut across to the other side. And then at the top and the bottom you can also cross over. When they have events on they often put tarped booths along this road.
The hydrangea caught my eye from afar. The bright bursts of color were clearly evident, set off by the fresh green of the cherry blossom trees. I thought my eyes were deceiving me to be honest. I thought that when I pulled over it would turn out to be just that cluster of stunning hydrangea. But there were hundreds of them (620 hydrangea to be exact) stretching for as far as the eye could see to the North. And they are on both sides of the river ditch, framing it with their vibrant bouquets. I am so glad I pulled over to investigate.
How I have never heard of this stunning hydrangea spot? Even on Instagram there is only a total of THREE photos for Rakusato No Kai. There are a few Japanese blog posts and one foreign language Youtube video. But they are mostly about the cherry blossoms though, not the hydrangea. This location has amazingly managed to stay obscure. A fortunate stroke of serendipity for us in this period when we are trying to enjoy seasonal flowers, while practicing social distancing. There was only one other family there the whole time we were at Rakusato hydrangea Okegawa.
The cherry blossoms, hydrangea and other flowers were planted by a community group of volunteers. It is now managed by a non profit organization “Okegawa Fureai / Ikiiki net”. They are responsible for its upkeep and for the various “hanami” flower viewings during the year. This year due to the coronavirus all the flower viewings have been cancelled.
Rakusato no Kai annual blooms
- 160 wintersweet in January
- 320 cherry blossoms in March
- 320 primrose jasmine in May, in 2021 there are some tall bearded Iris
- 620 hydrangea in June
- 50 crape myrtle in August
- 50 heavenly bamboo in November
|Rakusato no Kai|
|Address:||Kawataya, Okegawa, Saitama 363-0027|
Check out this really nice café – cafe N36° – with outdoor seating and a dog run, just a 10 minute drive from the kawazazakura / hydrangea.
There is no official car park. During the cherry blossom season they open a temporary car park for visitors. That car park is at the south east of the cherry blossom avenue. If you are visiting this year during the hydrangea season, the safest option is probably to park at Shiroyama park and walk over.
By public transport the nearest bus stop is probably Kawataya Shisho bus stop at the intersection of route 12 and Ageo Road. It is about a five minute walk from Rakusato. Bus “Kawagoe 04” stops here once to twice an hour. The bus goes between JR Kawagoe and JR Okegawa stations.