The short-lived lotus flower season in Tokyo excites me even more than the sakura. Thankfully, there are many wonderful parks in Tokyo for lotus viewing. Lotus season in Tokyo usually occurs between mid-July and mid-August.
Seasons in Japan
Flowers are the main messengers of the seasons in Japan. As a result, it is practically impossible to remain indifferent to flowers when you live here. Before you know it, you will start following the seasons under the guidance of the flowers. First comes the sakura, and then the iris and when it is time for lotus flower, you know that summer is supposed to be here. In Japan, you may also soon start to develop an appreciation for macro photography even if you slightly belittled it in your previous life.
Despite all the sakura frenzy, my favorite among the seasonal flowers in Tokyo has been lotus flower so far (along with the fall colors – 紅葉), not only because of the spiritual aspect attached to it but also the effort that you need to put in to follow the daily routine of this beautiful flower, opening its petals in the morning and closing those later in the day. You can even hear the sound when they open with the first morning light. Hopefully – one of these mornings!
Lotus Flower and Buddhism
I am far from being a plant or a buddhism expert. So I will just try to offer only a very brief introduction into the spiritual side of this beautiful flower. To underline the strong link between buddhism and lotus flower, I should note that the name of one of the most influential texts of Mahayana Buddhism is Lotus Sutra. You may have noticed the reference to Lotus Sutra in my previous post where I mentioned the wood carvings at Taishakuten Temple near my house depicting stories from Lotus Sutra. If you follow the process until the blooming of lotus flower, it starts off in muddy waters and makes its way up above the water and its full blossom represents the enlightenment. There are many readings of the lotus` journey to full bloom stage but I like this one the best. The flower rises above the water coming from dirty grounds in a pure and uncontaminated form. It also looks so picture perfect – more than any other flower that I have seen. In some readings, the journey of the lotus under the water represents our fight with the obstacles in life and how we always make our way out or above it.
Although the lotus flower is to a great extent seen as a sacred flower, their roots (renkon in Japanese) commonly make their way into various Japanese dishes. My favorite is renkon tempura but the stir fry (kinpira renkon) and even pickled version is also very popular.
Lotus Flowers in Ueno Park
Ueno Park has a very large lotus pond and is the prime spot to observe the lotus flowers. With its very central location, it usually gets quite crowded. The park is however open 24/7 (without any gates/entry fee except for certain seasonal gardens within the park) allowing you to opt for a very early morning visit if you prefer. I once went at 5am and it was definitely not empty but had a terrific time touring around the pond and taking my time to photograph almost each flower.
Lotus Pond and Mizumoto Park
Another less known but a very ideal spot to view the lotus flowers is Mizumoto Park – located in one of the eastern parts of Tokyo – Katsushika (where I live). Mizumoto is the biggest park in Tokyo. If you are looking for a more intimate experience with these flowers, Mizumoto is worth the trip with its small lotus pond along with couple of lotus pockets located in the river circling the park. There are some wooden walkways that you can walk on to get closer to these magnificent flowers. If you can, it is best to bring your bike as the parks is quite big with many different parts worth exploring. You can read more about this park in my dedicated Mizumoto Park post.