Saturday, July 5, 2014

Suigo Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden

"This garden boasts the largest collection 
of iris in Asia"
Suigō Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden





 The entrance of Suigō Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden.

During the early months of summer in June, it is the season of iris, a species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species. Iris is more commonly known in Japanese as ayame (菖蒲). The first tour of Chiba Kun Ambassadors took us to the city of Katori, which sits in the northeast part of Chiba Prefecture. Tone River flows just to the north, and it is the border between Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures.

The first stop we made was Suigō Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden (水郷佐原水生植物園), a beautiful spot that makes the most of the water and greenery of Suigo Tsukuba Quasi-National Park. Opened in 1969, the garden's approximately 6 hectares of land are covered with what is said to be the largest collection of irises in Asia - 400 varieties of 1.5 million irises bathing the park in purple. This garden is also best known for its rich variety of lotus collection, comprising more than 300 varieties of lotus; the largest in Japan. The irises are at their best in June, and the lotuses in August.



 A platform where wedding ceremony is performed every summer.  The newly weds will strode through the waterways in a boat 
 in full Japanese wedding costume after leaving the platform. It is romantic and historical.



 A path that cuts across the garden where you can enjoy the panorama view of the irises growing along the waterways in the center of the garden. 



 There were beautiful irises in yellow, blue, purple and white.  Red, pink and white water lilies (30 kinds, 5000 plants) float on the water.



The irises were classified and identified carefully with beautiful wooden labels written in kanji characters and with Japanese pronunciation beside it.  



 In the centre of the garden, numerous bridges arched over the waterways for easy access and viewing of the beautiful irises. 



 From late April to June, visitors to this garden get to board the boat, shaped like a bamboo leaf, 
 for a little scenic cruise along the Suigo waterway that winds through the garden.  



The boats are tended by strong older women who were so friendly and ready to tell you many stories about the town. 



One photo on the wooden bridge overlooking the waterway and garden in the background.  

The Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden is the most exquisite Japanese iris garden in Asia. 100,000 blue flags (Iris versicolor) and 50,000 Rabbit-ear irises (Iris laevigata) bloom on the garden in April and May, followed by the flowering of Japanese Irises. Different varieties of irises with chic names like Fujibakama and Dainagon bloom in white, purple and yellow in their various zones. The collection included 400 kinds of the Edo, Higo and Ise iris groups and visitors are overwhelmed at the vastness of 1.5 million flowers in bloom.  In cultivating its irises, the garden maintains technical ties with Nanjing and Wuxi in China.

The Iris Festival is held in this garden throughout the month of June every year. Unfortunately, it was already the last day of the festival during our visit. So, most of the irises had dried off and we did not get to see the garden at its best time. However, we managed to get see some of the lotus flowers which have started to bloom. In July, lotus flowers take the stage. Over 300 types of lotus are grown here, including a small lotus seldom seen in Japan. There are many rare types, and you can enjoy as many colors of lotus as your heart desires. Visitors can also try drinking Japanese alcohol using a lotus leaf as a utensil and drink through the long lotus stem.  This natural utensil is lovingly called the "elephant's nose cup".



 Further at the back of the garden has a large lotus collection, said to be the largest in Japan.



 Many of the lotuses have been donated by Nanjing and they bloom in white, red, pink and yellow during July and August. 



Very rare kinds of lotuses such as the Chiben (lotus with many flower heads) can be viewed here. The best time for viewing the lotus is in the morning (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa). 



 With Southeast Asian beauties - May (left) from Myanmar and Tiari (right) who hails from Bali, Indonesia. 



 An unexpected visitor on the lotus pond (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa). 

In addition to iris and lotus, early May is the best time to see its wisteria flowers with their subtle fragrances. The elegant wisteria flower, that bloom dripping long flowers, are usually held on the first 10 days of May. The 13 wisteria flower trellises form a 100-meter long tunnel, and is indeed a masterpiece. Anyone would be surprised by its huge size.

There are souvenir shops selling biscuits, mochi and Japanese sweets in the iris shape, and several eateries that offers hot noodle, soba and curry rice.During the Iris Festival time, there are also massive stands and nurseries were set up in the parking lots showcasing the varieties available. Visitors can grab some irises of exceptional beauty and unusual colors from the shops to be brought back as souvenirs.


 The group photo of Chiba Kun Ambassadors at the garden (photo credit: Madoka Usui). 


※ INFORMATION ※
Suigō Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden (水郷佐原水生植物園)
Address: 1837-2 Ogishima, Katori City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan (千葉県香取市扇島1837-2)
Opening Hours: 08:00 - 18:30 during the Iris Festival (hours vary in other seasons)
Closed: Every Monday and Year End and New Year holidays (open every day from May to August) )
Admission Fee: 700 yen (during the Iris Festival from the end of May to end of June), 500 yen from May to August (excluding the Iris Festival time), 200 yen other times.
Website: http://www.city.katori.lg.jp/suisei-syokubutsuen/index.html (Japanese only)
Tel: 0478-56-0411
Parking: Free (700 cars, 40 buses) 
Access: From JR Sawara Station (about 90 minutes from JR Tokyo Station), take the Kantetsu Kanko Bus via Yodaura towards Itako for 25 minutes, then get out at the Suisei Shokubutsuen Iriguchi bus stop, and walk 5 minutes (during the Blood Iris Festival time, there is a shuttle bus); Car: 30 minutes from Higashi-Kanto Expressway Interchange

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