First, the bad news: from now until mid-July, you can expect wet and gloomy days in Tokyo. But the good news is, the rainy season will bring on the bloom of colourful hydrangeas (ajisai in Japanese).
To see them all in their colourful glory, hop on the Shonan-Shinjuku (or Yokosuka) line at Shinjuku Station for a direct, one-hour ride to Kita-Kamakura Station. From there, it’s a short walk to three of the area’s most majestic temples – Tokei-ji, Jochi-ji and Meigetsu-in – all of them feature an abundance of the pretty flowers in various shades of blue and pink.
This tranquil temple is just a four-minute walk from Kita-Kamakura Station. The sacred grounds feature several beautifully landscaped walkways, complete with Japanese elements such as Buddha statues and stone lanterns, all of which provide the perfect background for your ajisai shots. Take in the peaceful surroundings over a cup of green tea at the on-site tea house; it even looks out to the adjoining iris garden.
Tokei-ji played a crucial and noble role in the local history: founded in 1285 by a nun named Kakusan Shido-ni, the temple offered asylum to women seeking refuge from their abusive husbands. Back then, a woman cannot initiate or file for a divorce. However, after spending three years in the nunnery, the temple could then officially authorise the divorce; this tradition lasted for almost 600 years.
8.30am-4.30pm (Apr-Sep), 8.30am-4pm (Oct-Mar). ¥200, junior high and primary school students ¥100.
To see the hydrangeas, you don’t even need to enter the Jochi-ji temple grounds as the outside compound is already picture-perfect. The wooden shoro-mon, a two-storey structure combining the temple gate and a belfry housing a 700-year-old bell, blends in perfectly with its lush surroundings.
This Zen Buddhist temple was founded in 1283 by members of the ruling Hojo clan. Originally, the sacred grounds feature eleven buildings, but they all collapsed during the Great Kanto earthquake in September 1923. So the structures you see today are recent reconstructions.
9am-4pm. ¥200, children ¥100.
Meigetsu-in isn’t called the Ajisai-dera (hydrangea temple) without reason. The number one destination among hydrangea lovers, it boasts one of the most beautiful gardens in the area. Take a scenic stroll up the hill and you'll find Instagram-perfect walkways lined with over 2,500 pastel blue flowers.
Along the walkways you’ll find several temple iconographies such as Buddha statues, little shrines and even wooden ema plaques adorned with hydrangeas. The garden is crowded and hence you’ll end up spending more time here – but it’s worth the effort.
Meigetsu-in was built in 1383 by Uesugi Norikata (1335-1394), and originally it belonged to a larger temple complex, which was abolished during the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Since then, the temple has become an independent entity. The name ‘Meigetsu’ can mean ‘bright moon’, and if we think of the Japanese folklore which says that rice cake-pounding rabbits live on the moon, it’s no mystery why you’ll find several adorable bunny statues at the temple. Psst… there are some live ones at the top of the hill.
9am-4pm (8.30am-5pm in June). ¥300 (¥500 in June and during autumn foliage season).