My friend Harry and I love hydrangeas, though he calls them “Old Grandma” flowers. While not the most dramatic or fragrant, I think of hydrangeas as big pom-poms of colorful cloud blooms. They’re soft to the touch, and pleasing to the eye – I mean, could you ask anything more of a flower (other than the aforementioned fragrance)? Harry has been talking about hydrangeas since last semester, and so we both decided that once the “viewing season” began, we would go to Kita-Kamakura. Kita-Kamakura is an a-joining suburb of Kamakura, roughly a twenty-minute walk to the main tourist drag of Kamakura station.
Now, guidebooks will tell you that you should avoid weekends when doing anything popular in Japan, be it hiking, sightseeing, or eating. When you’re working a full-time job with no holidays or PTO, weekends become the only time to do anything touristy. We braced ourselves for crowds of shade umbrellas and selfie sticks, and met at the small station of Kita-Kamakura. Luckily, though the streets up to the Meigetsuin (Hydranga Temple) grounds had a constant stream of people, it wasn’t quite as bad inside the shrine proper.
I like the different flower seasons in Japan – plum, sakura, hydrangea, chrysanthemum, etc. The Japanese really do love to photograph the flowers, almost as much as they like to photograph themselves among the flowers. Harry and I took a cue from the crowds and took many fashion shoot selfies with different giant blooms. It’s a little early in the season (when this posts it will be in full swing), but the hydrangeas did not disappoint. Blue, white, purple-ringed – hydrangea blooms reflect what’s in the soil. I planted blue hydrangeas back home, but they blossomed white because of the Ph balance in the soil. I wonder what must be laced in the temple grounds to get such a variety of colors.
The funniest moment occurred as we tried to find a place to buy Eno (the wooden prayer tablets). There were several lines what we had avoided, snaking up and around the largest shrine. Not wanting to be rude foreigners, we did not want to cut the lines if they were going the same place we were. One line, the longest, was packed with people carrying their Goshuinchou (red stamp calligraphy books), and led into the shrine. We couldn’t figure out why there were two lines until we worked our way gingerly towards the front. It turns out it was simply a line for taking a picture in front of a pretty window! This is something that is a bit of a cultural divide for me, as an American. We line up to take pictures with Mickey Mouse, sure, but not for the Liberty Bell. The Japanese are extremely good at queuing. And this second photo/selfie line specifically blocked the way to the Eno seller, so we wound up cutting anyway, with a demure “Sumimasen.”
Meigetsuin is a quick walk from the Kita-Kamaura station (Yokosuka Line), exiting on the east side. It costs 300 yen to enter the temple, and 500 to go to the second half of the temple (we did not do this, but according to this site there is an iris garden back there).
There are some other beautiful little shrines on this side of the station. The last time I went to Kita-Kamakura I got off on the west side, and found the town to be a little boring and almost industrial. Walking in the direction of Kamakura there is a main road full of shops and coffee houses, many of which are expensive small room eateries. There are also flowers everywhere. Harry and I joked that we could have saved the 300 yen to experience the “Hydrangea Temple” and simply walked up some of the side alleys. We noted many visitors who did just this.
If you are a resident of the Yokohama area, you really should take day (a weekday, if you can afford to) and go exploring around this area. We found a nice coffee shop where we cooled off and browsed our many photos. In Kamakura, after turning left at Tsurugaoka, we got burgers at an excellent underground burger joint (Google Maps yielded nothing, since both places were new and the street views are from 2015. I think one place might be Rans Burgers, but don’t quote me on that).
They say it’s good to stop and smell the roses every once in a while. I say the same holds true for just about every flower, even old lady flowers that don’t have a scent to their name.