Howaen park is a small Japanese garden located in the so called ‘Romantic Zone’ in Mito. It is a local attraction, which is maybe not so very well known, especially to outsiders. It is located off the centre of Mito on the way to the university. Much smaller than Kairakuen, it is usually not very crowded and a perfect spot for having a picnic or reading a book (or writing a blog entry).
If you could call it famous, then probably only for its prime season, which is June and July. Around that time of the year the hydrangea are blooming in a vast variety of colors. As far as I can tell from a quick search, there are more than five thousand flower bushes of about sixty different types. It is truly an amazing sight; I went there last year. There are flowers all around and it also smells very pleasant. I intend to visit again this year, so I will probably report about it. When the plants are in high bloom, a festival, the so called アジサイまつり (Ajisai matsuri), is held. It is a small festival (2016/06/14 – 07/05) as the garden itself is small, but it lacks nothing in comparison to the bigger ones.
Attached to Howaen is a buddhist temple, which has a red gate oriented towards the main road that marks the entrance. The name of it is unknown to me, according to the Ibaraki tourist information it is 二十三夜尊桂岸寺. I do not know the reading of those kanji, the first three mean 23 and the last one is ji, which is a counter for temple, but the rest remains a mystery to me. I will have to look into that later.
I will try to go back here a few times, because I am still lacking that Goshuin, all attempts on getting one have failed so far. Usually no-one is around in the office and I start to believe, that it is only attended during special occasions. But I can be quite persistent on that front. Open or closed, it is always worth a visit.
The park is quiet and peaceful. It has a small lake, a hill on which a small cave is located, and a waterfall that you can hear in the distance. The cave on top of the hill is home to a Buddha statue. For children there is a playground and adjacent to it an open lawn. There are quite a few benches around the whole park. Today I went there in the late afternoon; the weather was very nice: it was very warm and sunny. I did not even need a jacket, which is a first for this year. If it were not for the nights that can still be quite cold, I would say spring has begun. Nature certainly thinks this way. I got some Onigiri and a coffee from the close by konbini and had an early dinner snack (who cares about that? Sorry.) on one of the benches. It was that location where I wrote the first draft of this article. Unfortunately the wordpress app was not well today, so it deleted this draft when I went back to add the pictures. I am now home and writing this article from my computer; something I have not done since I restarted the blog. I hope this doesn’t happen again. Although I enjoyed writing the post the first time, if you have to rewrite it from scratch you certainly do not find exactly the same words. Now we all have to live with that.
If you have the time, it is easy to spend a lot of it in the park and in the surrounding area. Nowadays it is called the ‘Romantic Zone’ and it used to be a temple and flower district. At the entrance and also at several more places there are maps where you can get an overview. Many temple and shrines, a big graveyard, and the park. According to the display it shall take about thirty minutes from one end to the other. I will certainly come back here and report in a more detailed fashion, when I find the time. Obviously spring is a good time to do that as nature awakes.
The true beauty of Japan is hidden in the countryside. While the big hot spots for tourism, like Kyoto, Himeji, Nara, etc., are great, it is the not so frequented places where you really get to enjoy the traditional landscaping. It is one of my favorite places hang out and relax.
Signs of spring are already here in the park. The Japanese plum trees start blooming already in early February; the big festival 梅まつり (うめまつり, Ume matsuri) starts at the 20th this month and lasts until the end of March. Kairakuen is a hot spot for this season. According to wikipedia, the plum is actually an apricot. With it come a vast variety of different foods and spirits, but this is something for another time. (Also I am not a big fan of this.)
With any more ado, that shall be furthered, I’ll give you the impressions of today. I am trying out a feature (gallery) on this article, so please bear with me if it does not work out as intended.
The daily stamp will return next week with a report from my visit to Okinawa. I am very much looking forward to this. My friends told me, it is warm enough to wear shorts. Before this, there will be a post about something completely different; stay curious.