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Vibrant hydrangea flowers wait for visitors

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-05-19

The gardens in northern Okinawa’s Motobu area are plentiful, but none more beautiful than Ajisai-en, where thousands of hydrangea are now in full bloom.

Somehow Ajisai-en, a spacious garden set on 9,900 square meters of what was once a tangerine farm, is different—perhaps even very special—because it’s all the handiwork of Uto Yohena, a lady who’s been raising the purple flowers for more than 30 years. “My garden was actually a tangerine field until 30 years ago,” she says, “but I love flowers so I planted the hydrangea flower garden along the paths between the tangerine trees.” The love became her passion, taking precedence over the stately tangerine trees.

The 94-year-old grandmother toils in her garden daily, raising and nurturing more than 9,000 hydrangea in Motobu Town’s Izumi area. There are 78 species or varieties of hydrangea, and “I’ve got three dozen of them”, she beams. Many are little more than three-meters-high, but the beauty is such that “my garden is a member of the nationwide Hydrangea Flower Association,” and adds “my garden won the sixth best award from the West District Japan Hydrangea Garden Contest only four years ago.”

Her love for the delicate purple flowers continued to blossom, making her passionate hobby much more as tourists “began visiting my small flower and tangerine garden.” That led Uto to take the ultimate plunge, explaining “Tourists increased more and more so I decided to make it a hydrangea garden only.” The tangerine trees were soon only a memory.

She’s proud that “in my garden the hydrangea change colors depending on the soil’s acidity rate,” but Uto says most are growing very well. “There are many colors blooming, like pink, white and blue,” Uto notes. “All together, more than 30 colors are now showing in my flowers.” She loves having tourists drop by and visit, although conceding it’s plenty of work.

The garden is open most days, with the entrance fee ¥300 for adults and ¥100 for kids 6~18. “I had to begin asking visitors to pay an entrance fee for the past nine years,” Uto explains, “because operating the garden requires a lot of upkeep and maintenance, and that means expenses.” Parking is available nearby. To get to Ajisai-en drive north past central Nago on Highway 58, then turn left towards Motobu and Ocean Expo Park onto Route 84. Continue until you see a Jomo gasoline stand on the right and a police box on the left. Turn immediately left and Ajisai-end is on the left about 200 meters.

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