June in Japan means the beginning of the rainy season; the beginning of a hot, humid summer; it means fireflies, and finally packing away the kotatsu blankets, and rediscovering the collection of uchiwa hand fans stored from last year.
June is also the time to see ajisai, hydrangeas in all their pastel purple, pink, blue and white prettiness. Wild, along roadways, or gardened into gorgeous, sharp-intake-of-breath displays, they are part of the Japanese seasonal cycle, and crowds pilgramage to see them as they would sakura cherry blossoms or momiji autumn leaves.
Yatadera (矢田寺) in Nara prefecture is famous for its flowers and its Buddhist statues. The daien main garden is not only wall-to-wall flowers, but multistoried – the path twisting through the up-close undergrowth, then up stairs to enjoy a wider view.
Because ajisai bloom during tsuyu rainy season, damp weather doesn’t deter crowds. If anything, people were more keen to capture early summer’s true essense even if sometimes walking was a little slow, and taking photos and awkward juggling act.
Beyond its daien, Yatadera is a wide temple complex, with lots of interesting buildings and areas to wander around, and uncover the many ojizo statues it is famous for. The walk up to the temple gates is lined with small shops, selling local vegetables, toys, and tea. For someone looking for slow, meandering daytrip, there are lots of opportunities to stop and relax.
One of the interesting things we found when visiting Yatadera, was that the first paid parking lot was only 300 yen, but a few 100 metres along the price jumps to 500 yen. For an extra 2 minutes of walking, the cheaper price and shorter waiting time is worth it. There are also buses available from Koriyama station, or Yamatokoriyama station. Entry to the temple is 500 yen.