Water hyacinth, Doyono Furusato Otone Roadside Station, Kazo City, Saitama, Japan.
There are several different type of flowers that bloom annually in summer. One of the rarer ones, in Japan, is water hyacinth which is an aquatic plant native to South America. Supposedly they came to Japan in the Meiji era. Due to the conditions required to grow the plant, as well as the notorious invasive growth tendencies that landed it the nickname “terror of Bengal”, there are few places you can see water hyacinth in Saitama Prefecture. However, there are at least two locations, the most famous of which is Doyono Furusato Otone Roadside Station in Kazo City.
Each year in August thousands of water hyacinth bloom at the roadside station attracting thousands of visitors. The hyacinth in Kazo bloom from around mid June / early July until around the end of September / early October. Prime viewing is generally from mid July to mid August. Surprisingly, the other location I know of (in Gyoda) that grow water hyacinth, don’t actually bloom until mid September. More on them hopefully in the next week or so!
Water hyacinth in Japanese
Interestingly, the water hyacinth in Japanese is named after the stomach of Hotei (or Hoteison). Hotei is one of the Seven Lucky Gods! Hotei is the God of fortune and of popularity. Furthermore, he is the patron of barmen as well as diviners. Moreover, he is known as the Guardian of Children believed to grant family harmony and household prosperity. In addition, he also grants fertility and peace too. That bag he carries is full of fortune and never empties. A Lucky God indeed!
Hotei is depicted carrying a bag on his shoulder and fan in his left hand. Known as the laughing buddha or fat buddha in the West, he is supposedly the only one of the seven lucky Gods to be based on a real person. Pictured as a jolly bald fat man with a large belly that spills over his waistband. His long ears supposedly a sign of high spirituality. Curiously, the water hyacinth is said to look like his belly. I can’t see it all, can you? Hence in Japanese the water hyacinth is Hotei Aoi which is interpreted as Hotei’s stomach. An Aoi is also the word for a hollyhock or mallow flower.
Doyono Furusato Otone Roadside Station
The Doyono Furusato Otone Roadside Station is located along route 46 in Kazo City. The official website of the roadside station has lots of information about the roadside station, but they no longer update it with flower information. Instead, they use their Instagram account to update about the condition of the water hyacinths;
Season: early July to around the end of September
Hours: the roadside station is open from 9.30 am to 6 pm during summer, except the first and third Wednesday of the month. However, you can see the flowers even when the roadside station is closed, but you may not be able to park.
Cost: free to view
Address: Doyono Furusato Otone Roadside Station (道の駅 童謡のふる里・おおとね), 258-1 Zawa, Kazo, Saitama 349-1151. Plus code: 5JCV+8W Kazo, Saitama. On google maps.
Access: about 15 minutes from the Kazo Interchange of the Tohoku expressway. They have a small, free, car park for about 34 cars. By public transport it is about a 20 minute walk from Kurihashi station on the JR Utsunomiya and Tobu Nikko Lines.
The featured image was taken from the Kazo Tourism and Products Association website. However, that image is no longer on the website.