August’s Nature Spotlight: Soaring Sunflowers, Himawari Havens

Fields of Golden Sunlight: A Summer Paradise

Sunflowers, which are called himawari in Japan, are basically sunshine incarnate. They are a cheerful sign of summer days to come, and they are a pretty popular flower all around the world.

Incidentally, a song that I’ve really been vibin’ lately is “Sunflower” by Pauline Zoe Park (check it out here on Spotify). Every time I hear it, I start to reminisce about all of the wonderful adventures I had with my friends as we explored Japan.

For most people, sunflowers probably don’t make you think of anything Japan-related in particular. But for me, these flowers will always take me back to the land of the rising sun. 🎌

A Sunny Start to A New Beginning

Sunflower-viewing is actually a very popular activity in Japan. Every summer, I looked forward to coming across those golden blossoms, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. 🌻

My very first adventure in Japan involved a trip to see a lovely sunflower patch in Tomioka City, which was really close to where I lived. That day, as the hot sun bore down and the droning hum of the surrounding cicadas filled the air, I found myself drifting blissfully through a sea of floral sunshine.

It was a perfect day for dreaming about the future and all the adventures to come.

Sunflower Symbolism

Not surprisingly, sunflowers are often seen as symbols of happiness and positivity due to their bright colours and sunny disposition. For Asian cultures in particular, sunflowers also take on some extra layers of meaning.

Luck and Longevity

In Chinese symbolism, sunflowers are thought to bring good luck, both in health and in finances. Due to their hardiness and ability to grow well in hot, humid climates, sunflowers are also thought to be symbols of longevity.

Thus, sunflowers are commonly given away to graduates and those embarking on new career paths in order to wish them luck and lasting happiness.

Hope and Recovery

In the wake of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and killed more than 15,000 people, a tradition involving sunflowers began in Miyagi Prefecture, which was deeply impacted by the disaster. Every year, parents return to visit a hillside and plant sunflowers in memory of the many children who passed away.

If you were keeping up with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, then you may have noticed that sunflowers were included in the bouquets given out to medalists. Those sunflowers came from Miyagi Prefecture and were among three special flowers that were chosen in memory of those affected by the disaster in Japan.

Sunflowers are also being explored for their potential to lift radioactive elements from soil through a process known as phytoremediation. The efficacy of that process is still being examined in Fukushima, but the sunflowers are benefitting residents by offering them a symbol of hope in a time of crisis.

So, sunflowers have become important signs of resilience and recovery in Japanese society.

Where To See Sunflowers In Japan

No matter where you are in the world, sunflowers are a bright and unique flower to hang out with. So, why not take some time for them in Japan? If you’d like to spend a nice, summer day hangin’ with some cheerful blossoms, them here are three of the best places to see them.

1) Nyu Sunflower Fields – 丹生のひまわり畑 (Tomioka City)

In Tomioka, there are plenty of sunflower fields that go into full bloom throughout August. With approximately 110,000 sunflowers to see here, you can spend the day strolling around the hillside with friends and venturing out into the sunny fields.

The mountainous background at the Nyu Sunflower Fields also provides an amazing backdrop for taking photos! And, if you visit the fields closer to evening, you can even stay to watch the sunset! So far, this is my favorite place in the world to view the sunflowers.

2) Himawari no Sato – ひまわりの里 (Hokuryu-cho)

If you’re going for quantity, then this sunflower garden in western Hokkaido is the place to be. Harboring over one million sunflowers, Himawari no Sato is the largest sunflower garden in all of Japan.

Since there are, like, a bajillion towering sunflowers to see here, you can make the most of your experience by renting a bicycle or taking a joyride around the fields. There is also a cute little sunflower maze that you can try to escape from during your visit.

With so many sunny fields that stretch for miles, Himawari no Sato is a great spot to get your fill of flowers and sunshine.

3) Awaji Farm Park England Hill – 淡路ファームパークイングランドの丘 (Minamiawaji City)

Located on Awaji Island, this flower park is home to many different kind of flowers, and summer is definitely the time for sunflowers to shine. There are rolling hills of warm blossoms and all kinds of neat floral displays, including a cute little sunflower heart.

This park also has a mix of fruits and veggies that you can harvest as well as several different animals to enjoy during your stay. Animals that you can see throughout the park range from farm animals, like sheep and rabbits, to more exotic animals—most notably, koalas!

In fact, one of the park’s famous inhabitants is Midori the koala. At 24 years old and counting (as of March 2021), Midori currently holds the record for the oldest koala in captivity.

With its wide range of flowers and fun activities, the Awaji Farm Park England Hill is a fun place to visit all year round.

Have Some Fun in the Floral Sun

Japan was the place where I truly learned to appreciate the bold beauty of sunflowers. Now, as these wonderful summer days begin winding down, I’ve been spending as much time as I can just soaking up those last golden rays before they’re gone.

So, wherever you find yourself in the world, I’d recommend checking out the sunflower patch nearest to you. Go out and enjoy some chill vibes under the summer sun.

Happy flower-viewing!

Love, Day

Day Bulger
Day Bulger

Day is a graduate of the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, and she taught English in Japan as a JET Programme participant from 2019-2021. She loves traveling the world, discovering new vegan recipes, and learning new languages.

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