Enjoying the early summer roses

By Vicki L Beyer

"We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today." Dale Carnegie

Spring and early summer in Japan are a riot of color as various flowers bloom in all their glory. Late May and early June are dominated by roses in particular. While individual rose bushes can be quite lovely, in Tokyo one of the best ways to enjoy these gorgeous flowers is en masse, in specialized rose gardens containing wonderful collections of these amazing flowers, sometimes in spectacular settings reminiscent of French formal geometric gardens.

Here are four such collections: two in central Tokyo and two in the western suburbs. Each offers its own particular delights.

Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park is often said to be Japan's first Western-style public park. The space, situated between the Kasumigaseki government district and Ginza, was once an Edo Castle parade ground. Now a green space in the midst of government and business offices, it contains everything that a desk jockey in need of a bit of nature could possibly want: trees, grass, fountains, ponds, tennis courts, open-air concert facilities and, of course, flowers.

Like any good public park, there are numerous varieties of flowers so that blossoms are a nearly constant feature, but at this time of year, the roses in the formal flower beds of the park's northeast corner are the particular draw. Pull up a park bench and have a picnic!

Access: A two-minute walk from Hibiya or Kasumigaski subway stations, a four-minute walk from Uchisaiwaicho subway station, or an eight-minute walk from JR Yurakucho station.

Kyu-Furukawa Tei-in

This garden is named for the Furukawa family, industrialists of the Meiji period who acquired the house and garden by marriage into the Mutsu political family. The garden contains three principal features: the Western-style house standing at the highest point on the property, the Western-style garden on the terrace immediately below the house, and the Japanese-style garden at the "bottom" of the grounds. The house and Western-style garden were designed by English architect Josiah Condor.

While the house can only be entered through advance arrangements that are quite difficult to navigate (a real shame!), the gardens are delightful to stroll through. The Victorian exterior of the house becomes a feature of the Western-style garden--each complementing the other. The garden, arranged in geometric grids marked by well-trimmed hedges, contains 180 rose bushes of 90 varieties, making it especially resplendent in this season. In fact, it is currently hosting a Spring Rose Festival (May 9 to June 7). Visitors can enjoy the roses, most labeled in both Japanese and English, and then relax with refreshments or purchase plants or rose-related souvenirs at temporary stalls discreetly situated inside the entrance to the garden (where they won't interfere with photo ops).

Details: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission 150 yen (70 yen for seniors). Access: A seven-minute walk from JR Kami-nakazato station or from Nishigahara subway station; a 15-minute walk from JR Komagome station.

Jindai Botanical Garden (photo below)

This 48+ hectare site is Tokyo's only botanical garden. It is a delightfully quiet green space where one can completely disconnect from the stresses of city life. One of its most popular features is its award-winning rose garden.

This is the queen of Tokyo's rose gardens, with 5,200 rose bushes of 409 varieties, most of them laid out in a formal French style with a fountain at the center. It is often said that the best time to visit any rose garden is morning, when the flowers are releasing their fragrance. But here, even in the late afternoon the aroma as one approaches these masses of flowers is palpable.

Many of Japan's native roses are of the climbing variety and one side of the massive rose garden contains at least a dozen trellises covered with climbing roses. The garden hosts a "Rose Festa" in late May and October annually.

The rose garden is anchored at one end by a massive greenhouse (currently undergoing renovation) and at the other end by a raised pavilion where visitors can purchase refreshments and sit at cafe tables to enjoy a slightly more elevated view of the flowers. This time of year, the most popular flavor for ice cream cones is--you guessed it--rose.

Details: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.); admission 500 yen for adults, 250 yen for seniors, 200 yen for junior high school students; younger children free. Access: Public transportation access is best by bus; the bus stop is Jindai shokubutsu koen mae. From Tsutsujigaoka station, take the Keio bus for Jindaiji. From Chofu station, take the Keio bus for Jindaiji or the Odakyu bus for Kichijoji or Mitaka. From Kichijoji or Mitaka, take the Odakyu bus for Chofu or Jindaiji. Parking is also available.

Akirudai Park

Another suburban Tokyo park known for its roses is Akirudai Park. Also known for its sporting facilities, the park contains a formal rose garden with 450 rose bushes of 110 varieties. This park also hosts a one-day only Rose Festa. Although it's already been held this year (May 23); the roses are still in bloom and available for your enjoyment.

Access: A 15-minute walk from either Higashi-Akiru or Akikawa stations on the JR Itsukaichi line; free parking is also available.

© Japan Today

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Somehow I don't like this propensity to promote a garden based on a precise record of how many blooms and how many varieties there are. I feel it cheapens it. But, I admit, I might be alone in this feeling. For roses in particular it is the fragrance that I value so the Jindai botanical garden does sound a treat.

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I've been to all of these, but still prefer the one at Zao. Of course, this story is about Tokyo, so no complaints there!

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Roses are the most celebrated flowers in the world. They have so many symbols depending on the colors and it's always good to know the symbolic meaning associated with roses when you gift them to your loved ones. Roses may not be exotic but they sure are among the most beautiful flowers in the world and this is why so many people love them. I think roses delvers on elegance, grace and style and so they're the perfect flower for any occasion.

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After the cherry blossom come the roses. There is nothing like a quiet, peaceful and relaxing walk through a beautiful park or garden to make you feel content and at ease.

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