Sunflowers are the official flower of Zama City in Kanagawa. You can see the sunflower motif everywhere, and in July and August farmers open up their sunflower fields to the public for two sunflower festivals.
Why grow sunflowers?
According to the information sheet handed out at the festivals, the sunflowers are a fill in crop after the wheat harvest in June, to avoid undesirable weeds proliferating in the fields. Presumably the farmers can also harvest and sell the sunflower seeds. An added benefit of sunflowers is that they remove toxins from the soil as they grow. Whatever the reason, sunflowers planted en mass look absolutely fabulous.
What is the festival like?
There are narrow paths through the sunflower plants, so you can wander through a sunflower ‘maze’. There are raised platforms you can climb for a wider view over the fields of golden blooms. For a fee you can even pick blooms to decorate your hat, or to fill a vase at home. There are many stalls at the festival selling typical festival food like fried noodle, steak kebabs and shaved ice. There is also the opportunity to try sunflower cookies, liquor and other interesting delicacies. If you want to raise your own sunflower, you can buy a sunflower plant.
Different kinds of sunflowers
About half a million sunflowers bloom in Zama every summer. There are 30 different kinds of sunflower, the tallest of them reaching about 5 feet with blooms as big as dinner plates. They don’t all bloom at the same time, which is why there are two festivals, one in July and the other in August. The photos in this article were taken at the August festival location near Sagami River. In some fields, the flowers were at their peak of perfection, while in others they were past their best.
Great photography opportunity
When I went to the festival, I saw many people taking photos and posing. With gorgeous greens and yellows and strong, clear summer light, the sunflower festival is a wonderful photography opportunity, so don’t forget your camera.
Since these flowers bloom in the hottest months of the year, be prepared to cope with the heat. In amongst the tall plants there is no breeze and the heat can be stifling. You need a hat or parasol, sunscreen, and plenty to drink. You can buy drinks from the stalls, and there is a shaded area with seats and tables to get away from the sun’s powerful rays.
The map for this article shows the location of the August festival. The nearest station is Zama Station, at a distance of 2.1 kilometers.
The July festival is held in Kurihara and you can get there by taking a bus or taxi from Sobudai Station. If you want to drive, there is car parking available but it may be quite a distance from the sunflowers.