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Around the middle of the month, crowds will throng gardens around the country to view the splendor of the “Hanashobu“, much celebrated in prints and paintings from ancient times, well known pieces by Hokusai. This picture shows the famous irises in Meigetsuin Temple in Kamakura (where you can also catch the early hydrangeas in bloom if you’re lucky). Be warned, you have to pay an exhorbitant fee to go to view the irises!

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In the left of the foreground of the picture, you can see the Japanese Iris or “Hanashobu“, also known as Kaempfer’s Iris named after the man Kaempfer, a doctor who lived in Japan from 1690-1692. Von Siebold introduced the flower to Europe in 1858.

In the foreground’s right side, you can see the “Kakitsubata” or Iris laevigata.

These two are the most popular show-irises, though of course there are hundreds of variations of these. Crowds are usually led around the irises on boardwalks and across bridges since the plant likes boggy places.

Apart from show irises, you can find irises grown on waysides and wasteland, everywhere in Japan. Less showy than the “show irises” they nevertheless can be quite a sight when blooming en mass (see canalside blooms below).

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Apart from marshy places and damp woodlands, irises also like the edges of rivers. The bright yellow irises seen here brighten up an ugly canal where I like to go to feed the carp in Yokohama.


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