Japan's seasonal blooms are both beautiful and the subject of several celebrations. Since ancient times, flowers have held a deep cultural significance with each variety symbolizing an essence or emotion. They also reflect the passing of the seasons, and fittingly, annual flower viewing festivals take place throughout the country.
You might be familiar with cherry blossoms, but you also don't want to miss the lavenders. Unlike the sakura season, which only lasts two weeks, lavender festivals can go on for more than a month. To help you get started on planning your summer vacation, here's everything you need to know about lavenders in Japan.
Most parts of Japan aren’t ideal for cultivating lavender because of their humid climates. Since it isn’t a native flower, the Japanese word for lavender is ラベンダー (rabendā). The word comes from English and gets written using the katakana system. Though they're a rare sight in Japan, they've taken over a few places.
The northernmost island Hokkaido reaches freezing temperatures in winter and experiences mild summers. The climate makes it an optimal location for growing lavender. Furano and Biei famously grow the purple flowers in fields that rival France and England.
According to local lore, small farms in Furano began to cultivate lavender in the early twentieth century. However, essential oil production and other industries didn’t take off until much later. By the 1970s, places like Farm Tomita began attracting visitors to take in the views and scents.
Among the different gardens at Farm Tomita, you can see the “Traditional Lavender Field,” which is one of the oldest of its kind in Hokkaido. From the sloping hill, you’ll look upon a purple carpet with the scenic Tokachi Mountains in the background. The flowers start blooming from late June to early August, but peak in early to mid-July.
Another beloved area of Farm Tomita is the Irodori Field. Seven different colored flowers bloom here creating a rainbow-like scene. In addition to the purples and blues, you’ll see white baby’s breath, red poppies, pink garden catchflies, and orange California poppies. Because different species grow here, the blooming season is a little shorter, with the best visibility in mid to late July.
Around the same time the Irodori Field blooms, so does Lavender East. It is one of the largest lavender farms in Hokkaido covering 14 hectares (around 35 acres). To give your legs a little reprieve, you can board a bus for a nominal fee and leisurely view the blossoms from the large windows.
If you prefer to visit Hokkaido in winter, you can still see flowers in Farm Tomita’s greenhouse.
Known for its scenic views like the Blue Pond, Biei is a rural town surrounded by pastures and rolling hills. The main places to enjoy nature here are called Patchwork Road and Panorama Road. Despite their names, they don’t refer to streets but areas north and south of the city center. Both of these regions are gorgeous in every season and excellent places for cycling and hiking.
To see lavender and other flowers, head to Shikisai Hill (Shikisai-no-Oka) in Patchwork Road. From April to October, the panoramic gardens grow a variety of flowers, including tulips, sunflowers, dahlias, and more. In addition to riding a tractor, you can view the fields from above in a hot air balloon. Don’t forget to try some of Hokkaido’s local treats like cantaloupe and lavender-flavored ice cream.