Seven hundred year old wisteria, a natural monument of Saitama Prefecture, in spring, and hydrangea – backdropped by Japan’s tallest three storied pagoda – in summer.
At Aobaen, a cemetery in Saitama City, just North of Tokyo, Japan.
In the most unlikely of places in Saitama City there are three 700 year old wisteria that are a designated natural monument of Saitama Prefecture. The wisteria are on the grounds of Aobaen cemetery. The first privately owned cemetery to be built after World War II. Although the cemetery is privately owned, the wisteria are open to the public. They are right by the main gate. There are also other “attractions” (for want of a better word) at the cemetery…
The cemetery is huge, approximately 15 hectares, with several points of interest dotted throughout. Including a beautiful pagoda (Japan’s tallest three tier / story pagoda), shrine and various statues. Moreover, there are other wisteria trees throughout the grounds, even some in one of the car parks. Furthermore, there is even a lovely little garden with a rest house by the famous wisteria. And in the South Car park there is a “Wisteria” cafe! However, due to the Coronavirus that is currently closed.
Obviously as it is a cemetery there are people who are there to pay their respects to family and / or their loved ones. If you are visiting the location you need to obviously be aware of and respectful of that. There are no signs up, that I saw, that say “do not enter”. Actually on the contrary, there are signs up pointing in the direction of the attractions in the cemetery, such as the hydrangea garden. The hydrangea at the cemetery are also renowned locally. Its actually thanks to the hydrangea that I found out about the cemetery in the first place! For the record, there are cherry blossoms too.
The wisteria are estimated to be approximately 700 years old. Incredibly, they were transplanted to their current location when they were already ancient relics. The three trees were grown from seeds taken from Sashiogi, (current day) Kita Ward and Ageo City. In 1953 they were designated a natural monument of Saitama Prefecture as the “Wisteria of Omiya”, as at the time they were planted in Omiya, at the central Omiya Post Office.
The three wisteria, two purple and one white, were moved to their current location in 1963. They are in the same 10 x 13 meter garden where their clusters blossom on the same supporting trellis. As they are of the noda variety, their draping clusters can grow to about 1.5 meter at full bloom. They came into full bloom today, April 26th 2021. According to the official website (linked in information section), that is about ten days earlier than “normal”. >>In 2023, they started to grow on April 10th. As of April 12th 2023, they are still very short.
Wisteria Light up
The wisteria are lit up in a normal year. In 2021 and 2022 they only lit up the wisteria one night, due to the pandemic.
Japan’s Tallest three storied Pagoda
There is a pagoda on the North end of the cemetery. At 31 meters, according to the website, it is the tallest three tier pagoda in all of Japan. It is made from Japanese cypress in the style of the Kamakura period. Moreover, as it is on a hill, so you have a good view of it from most of the cemetery and many parts of Nishi ward too. However, it can’t be seen from the ancient wisteria as some of the buildings and conifers obscure the view.
Pagoda X Teru teru bozu (prayer votives / wind chimes / lanterns)
In 2022, Aobaen erected a wooden frame in front of the pagoda from which they alternate displays of prayer votives (ema), wind chimes, pinwheels, lanterns and teru teru bozu. For the 2023 wisteria season there were pinwheels displayed, followed by colorful lanterns. For the hydrangea / rainy season, cute little teru teru bozu are displayed. Read more…
Hanachozu X Pagoda!
Another new feature added in 2022 is a hanachozu by the pagoda. The water font is for the shrine which is to the right of the pagoda. The above photo was taken on April 12th 2023. You can see the pinwheels in the left background and on the middle right you can see that there are currently tulips in bloom.
Hydrangea and Pagoda
If you are looking for somewhere to get a photo of hydrangea backdropped by a pagoda, look no further! And not just any old pagoda, Japan’s tallest pagoda nonetheless! Aobaen has a hydrangea garden on the west side of the cemetery grounds. It is not particularly large, but the hydrangea are stunning. Furthermore, if you angle it right, you can get a photo of the hydrangea with the pagoda in the distance. Moreover, you can also get a photo of the pagoda with hydrangea beside it as there are more hydrangea bushes at the base of the pagoda. You can find small displays of hydrangea on the east side of the cemetery also.
If you go to Aobaen to see the hydrangea, I really recommend visiting one of the nearby hydrangea shrines – either Sashiogi or Adachi. If you are travelling by car, you could complete the trifecta. But if you are on foot, it would be quite a workout! Especially as Adachi Shrine is quite far from a train station.
Please note, at the time of writing this (April 2021) a few of the other wisteria in the cemetery are already past prime peak. For example, “the Mother and Child Wisteria” in the center of the cemetery. Also, the wisteria in the West car park are drying up. The few that hang close to the west side of the pagoda also seem to be past prime. There are some other seasonal blooms to enjoy in the cemetery. (That sounds so wrong, doesn’t it!). In the South west corner of the cemetery there is a beautiful display of azalea with some moss phlox (shibazakura) too. There is also azalea in the garden beside the wisteria. They are in full bloom right now.
There are about a dozen statues on the grounds of Aobaen. Including some busts. I’ve no doubts the busts of are famous people. Unfortunately, there is little information online in any language to fill in the blanks. The only one I recognized is Doraemon! There is a small doraemon in the garden by the wisteria. I was particularly intrigued by the statue in front of the wisteria of a woman in just a shirt with her hair tied back. As well as the statue of a woman and wolf in front of the torii at the pagoda. Research and a post for another day!
|Address:||5 Chome Mihashi, Nishi Ward, Saitama, 331-0052|
|Phone:||048-623-2111 (cemetery phone number)|
|Hours:||7:30 am to 6:30 pm, however the car parks close earlier. The South car park closes at 4.30 pm.|
|Online:||Aobaen Cemetery official wisteria web page|
The cemetery is located close to national route 17. You head west at the crossroads for Mihashi Park. Mihashi park is to the east of the crossroads. There are four car parks. The South car park is large. It also has a wisteria in it. And a cafe called “Wisteria”! However, the cafe is currently closed due to the pandemic. If you are using the South car park, please be careful as you are coming out of the cemetery – there is no foot path and the road is narrow so you step out onto the road! The West car park is the car park where you can park under the wisteria. However, that particular wisteria either didn’t really grow this year or is past its prime.
The closest station is JR Omiya Station. You can get buses bound for Nishiasuma from platform numbers 4 and 5 at the West exit of Omiya Station and alight at the “Mihashi Sougo Koen minami guchi” bus stop. Alternatively, you can walk from the station. However, it takes about 40 minutes on foot.
Other wisteria in Saitama Prefecture
- Tokaen: The 1200 year old Wisteria of Ushijima the most famous wisteria in Saitama, Japan and the world!
- Wisteria, Tamashiki Shrine and Park | KAZO
- Off the beaten path wisteria spot in Saitama
- Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine
i dont know if we have much in the way of Wisteria here in Australia, but it’s an amazing plant/flower in the way it grows looks amazing!
I love the ones that hang down for a meter or two, like a curtain of wisteria! Thanks Andy