June in Bloom - 花咲く平泉の6月


Around Hiraizumi, the end of May and the start of June is when summer really seems to kick in. Temperatures can climb to the high 80s (or around 30℃) during midday, which is plenty hot already, but combined with the notorious Japanese humidity in summer, it makes for a withering heat.


Precisely because of issues with the humidity sneaking into the walls, homes and buildings in Japan are rarely built with strong insulation as a priority, so the inside can be just as hot as the outside. At times like these, it starts to seem like a good idea to get outside where the breeze can take the edge off! So, I like to look for excuses to explore nice spots, and some of the flower displays at Hiraizumi’s scenic locations give me just that.


It almost seems like month to month, an entirely different complement of blooms appear, and for June, Hiraizumi has irises, exemplified in Motsu-ji Temple’s Iris Fair. Every year, Motsu-ji plants over 30,000 bulbs, of more than 300 varieties, in a series of beds surrounding the Founder’s Hall.



Like much of Motsu-ji’s garden design, there’s also an element of history to the flower beds. The tradition of the iris beds at the temple started in 1953, when Hiraizumi residents voted to contribute to the planting of a small bed in front of the Founder’s Hall. The following year, the venerable Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo sent a hundred bulbs to contribute to the garden, a showing of the prestige and pedigree of Hiraizumi’s temples, even more than 50 years before their listing on the world heritage registry.


Since their inception, the beds have expanded year after year as the temple continues the tradition, and the flowers have grown from hundreds to tens of thousands, and now form long waves of vivid purple, white, and yellow, which make for an enchanting tableau with the rest of the temple’s scenic garden as a backdrop. There are also events like a tea ceremony, temple rituals, and a historical dance performance during the Fair.



And of course, there’s even more garden strolling to be had in neighboring Ichinoseki, where the Michinoku Hydrangea Gardens has a walking course available that is surrounded with lovely kalmia flowers, and later in the month, hydrangea. If you’re in the mood for a bit of a hike, you can also see a vibrant corridor of hydrangea along one stretch of the Mt. Tabashine walking trail in Hiraizumi. If you want to take the time to see as much of June in bloom as you can handle, consider getting off the bullet train in Ichinoseki and making a pitstop at the gardens before continuing on to Hiraizumi, where you can stay the night and spend the day touring the temples!