A highlight of Japan's rainy season, or tsuyu, are the colorful hydrangeas you'll find across the country. Gunma Prefecture has some particularly scenic spots to enjoy them, and these four are free to access.
1. Onoike Ajisai Park, Shibukawa
Onoike Ajisai Park is a 30 minute walk, or 6 minute drive from Shibukawa Station. The park travels along a creek and around a small pond. At the top of the hill, there is a man-made lake. The bright colors of the hydrangea are even more beautiful against the water. If you are driving, park at the Seiyu across the street from the park.
Irisawa-2979 Shibukawa, Gunma 377-0008
2. Ogikubo Park, Maebashi
Ogikubo Park is located within Ainoyama Michi-no-Eki (roadside rest area). There is an onsen, a farm stand, and several playgrounds within the park. The park is a 20 minute drive from Maebashi Station. There is a truly shocking number of hydrangea within the park, in an array of colors. Some hydrangea are in open areas, while other paths lead you through lush green trees. There is also a firefly viewing area in the evening. Be sure to get a picture of the hydrangea hill with the playground lookout in the background, it's the most Instagrammed spot in the park.
530 - 1 Ogikubomachi, Maebashi, Gunma, 371-0001
3. Yashio Ajisai Village, Fujioka
This park starts on street level, but then goes down underneath a bridge and to the creek below. The underside of the bridge is painted with a mural of the 7 Lucky Gods, and throughout the park, there are 7 small shrines dedicated to each of them. Be prepared to climb many stairs as you travel up and down the hills of the park. To access the park by train, ride the Okutano Line from Gunma-Fujioka station and get off at Yashio-onsenkyo station. It takes 16 minutes to drive to the park from Gunma-Fujioka station via Route 13.
127 Joboji, Fujioka, Gunma 370-1406
4. Shogenji, Midori
Shogenji is a temple that prides itself on its hydrangea gardens. The gate to enter the temple is truly stunning, but my favorite spot is the hana chozu, where hydrangea blossoms float in the ritual cleaning basin. The temple also offers seasonal goshuin with hydrangea stamps. The temple is a 5 minute drive from Omama station, or 18 minutes from Kiryu station.
195 Omamacho Shiobara, Midori, Gunma 376-0115