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.
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.
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!
There’s supposed to be 200,000 azaleas, would you believe that?
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.
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 😉
In fact it dates from 1845.
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.
It’s easy to spend hours strolling around, finding a really good angle, drinking a coffee while enjoying the magic of the place.
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!
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.
So we’re not far from Nagasaki here, and you could say that this park is halfway between Fukuoka and… Gunkanjima 🙂
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.
I hope you haven’t already overdosed on the colours as the walk isn’t over yet…
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.
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?
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.
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.
After staining shorts and shirt with the colours of Mifuneyama, I reach the top of the mountain. Only an hour’s hike.
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.
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.
Ta-dah! Goodnight 🙂