''Kamiyama ya ōta no sawa no kakitsubata
Fukaki tanomi wa iro ni miyu ramu''
''Like the kakitsubata at Ōta Wetland, a God-sent heaven,
my trust in you can be seen in the color of their flowers.''
The famous irises create a cloud of purple which can't be matched (see no.'s 1). To realize that they have been showing their splendour to their admirers for over a thousand years is equally stunning. You can watch the spectacle day and night and you do not even need a ticket. Although a 300 yen donation is of course appreciated. You can just leave it in the donation box. When you've seen enough and can only see purple spots in front of your eyes, pray for good health or a happy marriage at the shrine that is dedicated to the god of plentiful harvests.
Starting at the top, every visit after this would have to be a letdown of course. Additionally, timing is difficult when it comes to nature. The timing at Ōta Shrine was absolutely perfect, on May 14th. But I can't help but thinking I was too late at Heian Shrine (May 16th, no.'s 2) and Umenomiya Taisha (May 17th, no's 3) to find the irises in their prime. Alas, no time left to visit the fourth most famous iris viewing spot, Oharano Shrine.
Fortunately I do have a second chance in June at Heian Shrine. Other species will bloom that moth, hanashobu and ayame. In May there was no cloud of purple, or yellow, or white... Just a few specks here and there. Luckily, Heian Shrine garden has other features that do make a visit worth wile. The garden contains three ponds, with great amounts of water lilies, which are also a raffle to see. The last pond does not even need flowers, but is magnificent through the beautiful bridge built over the water.
Umenomiya Taisha garden was less of a sight, so bedraggled it was somewhat funny and strange to walk through the rusty gate and rather unkempt garden. Although, when the timing is right, it could be worth the trip to this slightly out of the way place with a tower of sake barrels to worship. Umenomiya should at least be a showcase of the most species of iris when they're blooming (apart form Kyoto Botanical garden maybe). Well, June arrived and I'm ready for another round!