In the last week, several places around Saitama Prefecture have reported that their wintersweet have started to bloom, a little earlier than the average year. By the first week of January, we should be able to see and smell wintersweet, but they will probably come into their prime around mid January.
Wintersweet / Robai
Wintersweet is a tree that flowers in January and February in Japan. It has beautiful, delicate yellow blooms, often described as being beeswax yellow, with the most delightful scent. You can often smell a winter sweet tree long before you can see it. In Japanese they are called robai (roubai / rōbai) . Most commonly it is written in the katakana alphabet ロウバイ, but their is a kanji for it too: 蝋梅. Occasionally they are referred to as karaume. Another name for them in English is Wax Japanese Apricot. Occasionally, they are referred to as Japanese Allspice. Supposedly they call them yellow plum flower in China.
It is said that robai came to Japan during the Edo period. Furthermore, they are regarded as one of the four flowers that bloom in the snow, collectively known as Sechu Shiyu 雪中四友. There are many references to Japanese Allspice (wintersweet) in various poems and songs. The flower represents ‘deep affection between parents and children’. In the depth of winter, the wintersweet warms the heart so possibly that is why the flower got its flower meaning.
10 places for wintersweet / robai in Saitama Prefecture
- Nagatoro Robaien
- Hanamizuki no Mori
- Shinrin Park
- Kodai Hasu no Sato
- Tokorozawa Aviation park
- Fukaya Green Kingdom
- Kawaguchi Green Center
- Omiya Hana no Oka
- Honjo Agriculture Tourism Center
- Gongendo Park
1. Nagatoro Hodosan Robaien 宝登山ロウバイ園
Nagatoro Hodosan wintersweet garden is the largest in Saitama Prefecture with 3000 trees over around 1.5 hectares (15000 square meters). As of today, December 29th 2021, they are about 30 to 40% bloom, according to the official website. In a normal year, they have a wintersweet festival for about three weeks of the prime viewing season, which is generally mid January to early February. However, in both 2021 there was no festival due to the pandemic. But the garden is open to the public. But this year, 2022, they decided to combine the wintersweet and plum blossom festival into a “Winter flower story” event. There is no charge into the wintersweet, but if you want to use Hodosan ropeway you have to pay. You can also hike up to the top if you prefer.
|Address: 2195-2 Nagatoro, Chichibu District, Saitama 369-1305. On Google Maps.|
More information in English
2. Hanamizuki no Mori ハナミズキの森 石井実生園
This is the only place on the list I have not yet been to personally. Its on my list for 2022! Furthermore, I can’t find even a review in English anywhere online to share with you in the table below. But it gets rave reviews in Japanese online! According to the official website there are about 1000 wintersweet trees of which 300 of them are in the “festival hiroba”. They have a wintersweet festival each year. Even in 2022. The wintersweet festival at Hanamizuki no Mori will start on Saturday January 15th. It is scheduled to end on Sunday February 6th 2022. It is on daily from 10 am to 4 pm. There is no entry charge into the wintersweet festival.
3. Shinrin Park 森林公園
There are two areas with wintersweet in Shinrin Park, the most common name used for Musashi Kyuryo National Government Park in Namegawa town. One is by the water play area, not the water park but the newer water play area near the central gate. The other area is the Plum blossom vineyard. Later in the season, you can see wintersweet and plum blossoms side by side, as per the photos above. Shinrin Park is a vast 304 hectare park. There are dozens of flowers that bloom in the park in January other than just wintersweet. And there are some really great playgrounds in the park. It is ideal for a family day out. However, there is a charge into this park – 450 yen for adults.
|Address: 1920 Yamata, Namegawa, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0802. On Google Maps.|
More general information about the park in English
4. kodai Hasu no Sato 古代蓮の里
There are 248 wintersweet trees in Kodai Hasu no Sato in Gyoda City. Interestingly, although Nagatoro’s wintersweet garden is a lot bigger, Kodai Hasu no Sato and Tokorozawa Aviation Park (#5 below) are probably the best known wintersweet spots in Saitama. The park also has plum blossoms which for a short period bloom in synchronicity. But, Kodai Hasu no Sato is best known for its ancient lotus which bloom in the summer. This park also has the largest rice field art display to Tokyo. The rice is not painted – it is planted in such a way to create an incredible painting. Each year the image changes. It can be seen from around early August to October.
|Address: 2375-1 Kobari, Gyoda, Saitama 361-0024. On Google Maps.|
More information about the park and seasonal blooms in English
5. Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park 所沢航空記念公園
Tokorozawa City is a hotspot ever since Tokorozawa Sakura Town opened. But the city has always had a lot to offer. Including the facilities at the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial park which include an aviation museum, which we personally have enjoyed visiting in the past. In the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park, which is the site of the very first airfield in Japan, there is a small wintersweet garden with about 100 trees.
|Address: 1-13 Namiki, Tokorozawa, Saitama 359-0042. On Google Maps.|
More information about the park in English
6. Fukaya Green Kingdom ふかや緑の王国
Fukaya Green Kingdom is an absolute pleasure to visit at anytime of the year. Fukaya Green Kingdom is part of the Saitama Prefecture Flower Planting Distribution Center. It is off to one side with a small entrance way you could easily miss if you weren’t looking for it. The ‘kingdom’ is made up of several small gardens and a few greenhouses too. Surprisingly, there is no charge into the Green Kingdom. In winter, apart from wintersweet aka Japanese Allspice, you can see various other tree blooms and flowers.
|Address: 24-2 Kushibiki, Fukaya, Saitama 366-0815. On Google Maps.|
More information about Fukaya Green Kingdom in English
7. Kawaguchi Green Center 川口グリーンセンター
Kawaguchi Green Center is another place that is a pleasure to visit anytime of the year. It is a botanical garden with various add ons, such as ‘Wanpaku Hiroba’, a play area for children. They also run several events during the year. Green Center’s robai generally start to bloom a little earlier than elsewhere, around the last week of December. The center posted yesterday, December 28th, to say that their wintersweet have already started to bloom.
|Address: 700 Araijuku, Kawaguchi, Saitama 333-0826. On Google Maps.|
More information in English on Japan Travel website
8. Omiya Hana no Oka 大宮花の丘農林公苑
Another place that has flowers all year round, Omiya Hana no Oka has the benefit of being in a better geographical location situated on the outskirts of Saitama City, beside Ageo. In fact, part of the park is officially in Ageo City. Probably right around where the Wintersweet are! There are approximately 90 wintersweet in Omiya Hana no Oka in two different areas. The park also has some pansies in bloom in January and in February you can see the plum blossoms. Some of the early blooming plum blossoms are generally in bloom around the same time as the wintersweet, which in my experience are a little later to bloom than other places. In 2021, they only started to open on January 20th, as per the above photo.
|Address: 124 Nishiarai, Nishi Ward, Saitama City 331-0049. On Google Maps|
More information about the seasonal blooms at the park in English
9. Honjo Agriculture Tourism Center 本庄市観光農業センター
There are only about 30 wintersweet trees at the Honjo Agriculture Tourism center. But for anyone looking for a completely off the beaten path location, this is worth considering. I’ve only visited during the buckwheat soba season, but the area is really picturesque without anything in bloom. Moreover, the wintersweet are backdropped by Joshinin Hyakutai Kannon-do, one of the three great “Sazaedo” temples in all of Japan. The temple has a very unusual design, which is not apparent from the outside, that is likened to a sazae – a turban or mollusk shell. Furthermore, Japan’s only namesake shrine is in this area, that is the only shrine in all of Japan called “Nihon” Shrine.
|Address: 653 Kodamacho Kodaira, Honjo, Saitama 367-0214 . On Google Maps.|
More information in English coming soon!
10. Gongendo Park 権現堂公園
Gongendo Park currently only have a few wintersweet, but I have a feeling the numbers will increase over the years! The real benefit of visiting Gongendo park for a whiff of the sweet scent of wintersweet, is that you can see half a million daffodils in the park at the same time in January. And in February generally the rapeseed starts to bloom. The park is most famous for its cherry blossoms with those same rapeseed in bloom.
|Address: 887番地3 Uchigouma, Satte City, Saitama 340-0103 . On Google Maps.|
More information about the seasonal blooms and the park in English
There are a few other places to see wintersweet in Saitama that didn’t make this list. Such as Botanen park in Higashimatsuyama. The wintersweet there are still very young. Have you been to smell the wintersweet in any of these locations? What did you think? Is there anywhere else you would add to this list.