Sawara, located in Chiba Prefecture is an old Japanese merchant town. It is popularly called “Little Edo” as it still houses some old shops and stores from the Edo period. While taking a tour along its historical canal and being transported to a different era we stumbled upon this little gem hidden away in the wilderness: the Suigo Sawara Ayame Park. At this nearly 8-hectare park, which contains an island, bridge and water, you can enjoy a nostalgic riverside atmosphere.
It is the season of iris (a species of flowering plants with showy flowers) during the early months of summer. Iris is known as ayame in Japanese and takes its name from the Greek word for rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colours found among its species. This park is in the Suigo Tsukuba National Park and boasts of 400 types of 1.5 million iris flowers! This number is the largest in Asia! Upon entry, one can be overwhelmed and filled with pure bliss to see these 1.5m flowers in full bloom. It sure is a sight for sore eyes!
The entire park is mostly covered with iris fields and patches which are connected by a stream in which one can enjoy Japanese-styled boat rides. What struck out as the most unique feature of this park was watching couples being wed on the Yui-no-Shima, the island of weddings. Yui means to tie a knot, so this is the island where couples “tie the knot” surrounded by spectacular irises, the gentle fragrance of wisteria and a breath-taking view with help of a priest from the nearby Katori Shrine.
Although Ayame Park is mostly known for its colourful and appealing iris flowers, it is also home to a 100-meter-long wisteria tunnel and a large lotus gallery where approximately 300 different varieties of lotus are cultivated! Certain rare and valuable kinds of lotus such as Chodairen, which looks like a flower blooming inside a flower and Taiseikin, double flowered lotus are also cultivated here!
Throughout the park there are benches and vending machines. So, after a long walk in the park you can rest your tired souls and treat yourself to a chilled lemon soda and the pleasing sound of the live music being played by the local Sawara musicians. An interesting fun fact: the Suigo Sawara Grand Festival is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset and is also a part of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage!
Other features of this park include a waterlily pond, gourd pond, forest playground, dog run, grass plaza, observatory, prickly water lotus pond, and an open-air tea ceremony plaza.
This park is a perfect blend of culture, tradition, festivals, seasons and colours. If you want to be away from the humdrum of your busy city life, or if all you want is to just sit back and relax with your family, friends and pets, this is the place for you! Go on, enjoy those gondola rides, take in the fragrance of those beautiful flowers, buy some local souvenirs, lose yourself in the old-world charm and let your soul rejuvenate!
Suigo Sawara Ayame Park Information
- Address: 1837-2 Ogishima, Katori City, Chiba
- Phone: 0478-56-0411
- Hours open to visitors:
- 8:00 to 18:30 during the Blood Iris Festival period
- Hours vary in other seasons.
- Open every day from May to August.
- Admission Fee:
- 800 yen (during the Blood Iris Festival from the end of May to end of June)
- 600 yen from May to August (excluding the Blood Iris Festival time)
- 200 yen other times
- By train and bus: Get off at Sawara Station, JR Narita line. And on Kantetsu sightseeing bus for Itako, get off at Aquatic Botanical garden, 5 minutes on foot.
- By car: Higashi Kanto Expressway, 20 minutes from Sawara-Katori exit, or 25 minutes from Taiei exit
- By highway bus: Kanto Railways Green Bus from Tokyo Station for Hokota-station, get off at Yodaura, Aquatic Botanical garden, 5 minutes on foot. Keisei bus, from Hamamatsu-cho, or Tokyo-station, by way of Sawara, for Choshi, get off at Sawara station north exit.
- The shuttle bus is operated from Sawara Station to the garden for the iris festival period (adult 500 yen).
- Website: https://www.city.katori.lg.jp/suisei-syokubutsuen/ (in Japanese)