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Mifuneyama Rakuen: An Avalanche of Azaleas

Mifuneyama Rakuen: An Avalanche of Azaleas

Near the small town of Takeo there rises Mifuneyama, a proud mountain apparently covered with heads of broccoli. But a magical gardener has passed by and poured the juice of soft fruits over them, to announce the arrival of spring. Welcome to Mifuneyama Rakuen (御船山楽園), a park that literally transports you to paradise.

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Mifuneyama Rakuen viewed from a drone

Mifuneyama Rakuen is located in Saga prefecture in the Kyushu region of southern Japan. My visit was just after the Kumamoto earthquake but everything was OK here, the people happy and smiling.

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Permission was granted to use my drone and the result is fantastic. I came specifically to capture a certain angle that I desperately wanted to see for myself, but found even more amazing views from the heights!

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

There’s supposed to be 200,000 azaleas, would you believe that?

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

The 2,000 cherry trees (sakura) are also magnificent in autumn. In other words, if you time your visit carefully it’s a very beautiful spot, one of the finest in Japan. On the other hand, between seasons or on a rainy day, you might be disappointed. So timing can be tricky but the park is full of surprises.

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

I was looking out for heart shapes or Hello Kittys but there’s none to be seen –the park is in no way modern, and so much the better for it 😉

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

In fact it dates from 1845.

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Mifuneyama Rakuen viewed from below

You don’t need to be on board a drone to enjoy the scenery, Mifuneyama Rakuen is just as beautiful seen from below, only different.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

It’s easy to spend hours strolling around, finding a really good angle, drinking a coffee while enjoying the magic of the place.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

As for me, I lingered for about three hours one morning. Arrived an hour before opening time (what a nerve) but even when the park officially opened, there was hardly anyone around!

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Mifuneyama is also known as Karafuneyama due to its resemblance to Chinese merchant ships, like those that sailed to the port of Nagasaki. Around 1850, along with the Dutch, the Chinese were the only people allowed to trade with Japan through Nagasaki.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

So we’re not far from Nagasaki here, and you could say that this park is halfway between Fukuoka and … Gunkanjima. Try the Béné site(Bene no Fukuoka) for sites to visit in this town (which seems very nice; must go back), and then we’ll arrange to meet at Gunkanjima via this lovely park. Again, watch your timing! 🙂

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Near Mifuneyama Park there’s also the town of Takeo and its famous onsen (武雄温泉), not to be missed if you’re in the area.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

I hope you haven’t already overdosed on the colours as the walk isn’t over yet…

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Azaleas and sakura

I was lucky to find a few flowers left on this magnificent tree. The background is even more incredible with the blossom in the foreground.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

 

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

 

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park
azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

 

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

 

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

 

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

Wisteria is very popular in Japan. If you think these flowers are gorgeous and would like to dream your way along an alley overflowing with wisteria and tourists, why not seek out these two parks: Kawachi Wisteria Garden (Fukuoka) and Ashikaga Flower Park (Ibaraki). Maybe you know of others?

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

An idea has been buzzing round in my head since I arrived – it is possible to reach the summit of Mifuneyama on foot?

The heights of Mifuneyama

The park ranger says yes, you can, adding that my shoes aren’t suitable. I’ll try anyway.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

The trail is very easy at first and leads to a little temple that looks abandoned. Then it becomes much more challenging, and sure enough my shoes are a real problem.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

After staining shorts and shirt with the colours of Mifuneyama, I reach the top of the mountain. Only an hour’s hike.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

An adrenaline surge needed to get this shot. The view was more striking from the drone but I don’t regret having climbed up here.

azalea, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring
Mifuneyama Park

I go down to partake of an onsen (and a great burger!) in Takeo before returning to the park.

Mifuneyama Rakuen in the evening

The lighting changes everything and gives you the impression of visiting four different places without leaving Mifuneyama! A short and silent nocturnal walk … again, there’s not many people around and a good thing too.

Mifuneyama Park
Mifuneyama Park

 

Mifuneyama Park
Mifuneyama Park

 

Mifuneyama Park
Mifuneyama Park

 

Mifuneyama Park
Mifuneyama Park

Ta-dah! Goodnight 🙂

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Who Am I

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring

I am Jordy Meow, I am a French photographer living in Japan. My interest is to discover and share information about offbeat and lesser known locations for foreigners coming or living in Japan. I published books and now preparing new beautiful series of guidebooks.

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