September 16, 2012

Japanese Flower Parks in Autumn: Meet the Corn Maze of the Future

KOCHIA BEDDED OUT ON ACRES AT A FLOWER PARK IN JAPAN, STILL IN IT'S SUMMER-GREEN STAGE. BY OCTOBER, THIS FIELD WILL TRANSFORM INTO AN AMAZING SEA OF SCARLET

KOCHIA SCOPARIA

I am about to share something completely new to you - the Japanese Flower Park. Flower festivals are not unique in Japan. This is a country which has its Cherry Blossom Festival, and autumn still belongs to the Kiku festivals, (the Chrysanthemum festivals which are held throughout Japan in November),and there are the annual Matsuri festivals celebrating the rice harvest.  These are completely different - these newer festivals make our corn mazes and pumpkin fields look as boring as, well, a field of corn.


HITACHI KAIHIN PARK, ONE OF JAPANS MOST VISITED FLOWER PARKS 

Flower Parks have become the all the rage in trendy and stylish Japan, with a new one opening most every week in the autumn.  What makes these flower parks so amazing is not any religious significance One can see millions of Cosmos in September and October at Ushiku, where a virtual blanket of punk and white extends as far as the eye can see, attracting thousands of daily visitors who take the train from Tokyo there. Then, there is the popular and perhaps the most impressive Hitachi Fuudoki no Oka , the 3000 meter park where zinnias and other flowers are planted for fall photos and appreciation. Nearbuy, the Hitachi Kaihin Park which, was already famous for its spring bulb displays of tulips and daffodils, it now extends displays well into autumn with massive planting of Kochia, the Burning Bush. This single installation has annually taken Japan by storm. 




So I ask you.... are these displays just one of the many beautiful quirks of Japanese culture, or is this something that we could recreate here in the USA?  I am not sure if anyone aside from a seed company, cultivate 30 acres of kochia here in America. What do you think?

IN OCTOBER, THE REAL SHOW BEGINS AT THE HITACHI SEASIDE PARK. IN THE DISTANCE, KOCHIA HILL CAN BE SEEN IN THE DISTANCE

I am also wondering why the Japanese find these fields so fascinating...on one hand, I get the appeal visually, as this sort of event-spectacle feeds the the Japanese aesthetic, but I am guessing that most visitors are un-traditional Japanese flower viewers - this is not the kimono wearing - flower shrine visiting type of viewers who might attend an Ume Plum festivals in February. I imagine that the connection being made here is less secular, and more anime. These spectacles are more Mothera than Matsuri. Either way, these flower parks pack a lot of appeal into a few acres.

Maybe the lesson here is this:  plant a flower by the gazillions, and they will come.  Maybe these are the flower show of the Millennium?  Brilliant fields of flowers blooming as far as the eye can see attracting trainloads of viewers, only because it is so incredibly beautiful. It's Wizard of Oz meets Tokyo Disney, but with a twist - a very pretty one. 



ALTERNATING FIELDS OF KOCHIA FIRE BUSH AND COSMOS MAKE FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE WILLING TO GIVE ANY CORN MAZE A RUN FOR ITS YEN.


I just can't imagine flower parks becoming popular in the US, yet that said, who could have ever predicted that a corn maze or a pumpkin field would attract thousands just twenty years ago? At Hitachinaka Kaihin Park, which is also known as Hitachi Seaside Park, plant and flower appreciation has sparked a new interest in floral displays on a such a big scale. It's created  an entirely new business model for farmers, since these spectacles provide those looking for something different to do on a weekend - a beautiful option. I'm not yet convinced if the American public could ever appreciate these  displays enough to support such an investment. Honestly, Corn is much easier and inexpensive. But wouldn't it be nice....


Cosmos in peak bloom at the Hitachi Seaside Park.


HIGANBANA, OR LYCORIS , BLOOM IN AUTUMN IN HIDAKA CITY FLOWER PARK
For the real plant geeks, a treat awaits at nearby, at Kinchahuda, Hidaka City. For 6 short days  in September, more than a million Lycoris bloom in a planted woodland. Also known as Spider Lilies, Lycoris known as Higanbana in Japan,  this woodland meadow attracts crowds. You can find more images at the Expat's Guide to Japan site, and if you can read Japanese, visit the official Spider Lily Site for Higanbaba at the Hidaka City Kinchakuda Site.


Nemophila transforms the same Kochia fields into a sea of true blue


It doesn't end with Kochia, for this entire display of volume and numbers begins in early spring, blue Nemophila flowers, which  bloom alongside acres and acres of tulips and golden mustard flowers. These weeks are known as the Golden Week, at the park, but I've seen mustard grown ornamentally in public parks in Tokyo as early as February. Nemophila Harmony Festival happens in May, in Hitachinaka.



If you find yourself in Japan this autumn, be sure to hop a JR train and visit one of these amazing displays.

Place: Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture 
Hours: 9:30am-5:00pm
Holidays: Mondays* 
Admission: Adults (15-64 yrs) 400 Yen / Children (6-14 yrs) 80 Yen / Silver (65 yrs+) 200 Yen

Access from Tokyo: From Ueno Sta., take the JR Joban Line super express “Hitachi” to Katsuta Sta. From Katsuta Sta. take the local bus from bus stop #1 and get off at Kaihin-Koen-Nishiguchi.

7 comments :

  1. I can see the appeal, however as an environmentalist I can't imagine these fields to be sustainably grown. I am sure they pump the fields full of pesticides and fertilizers to get that end result. Stunning though.

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  2. I'm in love!!! I need to find something like this a little more local though...

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  3. Amazing! It's like some strange dreamscape or a place the Teletubbies would live.

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  4. Laura, I know - talk about monoculture, right? I wouldn't be too quick to wave the green flag just yet, as Kochia scoparia is extremely sensitive to both herbicides, and commercial fertilizers - ( it's a key Monsanto target plant in the US so I doubt that they are "pumping the fields full of fertilizer", but surely, manure and compost are used. Kochia can be invasive, which might be a better reason to consider not growing it - it is a terrible weed in US agriculture, found in soybean fields, one of the reasons why it is restricted and hard to find maybe.). Yet, I can't imagine that these fields are any more dangerous to the environment than corn mazes,, or typical fields of maintained park lawn. I am curious and will research this more. Thanks!

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  5. Fascinating Matt, I may pop along to this as it's not too far from where I live currently!

    - Matt Chadwell

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  6. This reminds me very much of something we have here in So Cal called The Flower Fields, which is a commercial operation for production of Ranunculus and other bulbs that rather accidentally became a tourist attraction. When the Ranunculus are in bloom, thousands of people come to just walk through the field, gawking at the masses of flowers.

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  7. Hi, inspiring article. We want to go there on Nov 4 or 5 this year. Do you happen to know whether the Kochia Fire Bush is still there or already too late? Thanks!

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