The May Blues

The May Blues… this can mean a lot of different things for people in Japan during May. In Japanese we say 五月病 (gogatsubyō), which directly translates as May illness. However, this phrase isn’t referring to catching a cold, but feeling a little depressed. April in Japan is a busy and exciting time. It's not only for enjoying the cherry blossoms (and probably drinking too much sake under them), but for workers and students in Japan, it marks the start of a new year. For many students this means starting at a new school, and for employees it might mean a transfer within their company, or even moving to a new town.  It’s a busy, stressful, and exciting time. Then in early May golden week comes. Golden week is the most magical week in Japan, in which there is a cluster of national holidays, giving us up to a week without work or school depending on the timing. We can finally relax, or take a short vacation. After golden week ends, the May blues begin. It’s getting back to reality. 
 
However it’s not just the sad kind of blues that come out in May; it also plays host to a range of blue flowers, including Wisteria, early blooming Hydrangeas and Nemophila. I’m here to talk about Nemophila, commonly known as Baby Blue Eyes.   
 
Long before I ever came to Japan, a photo of a hill carpeted with these blue flowers caught my attention. At the time I didn’t know where it was, but I really wanted to go to wherever it was! Fast forward a few years and I found myself living in Japan. I discovered that (of course) this magical place is in Japan, just a short journey from Tokyo! Furthermore, I happened to visit Tokyo in May as they are coming into bloom! So of course I made plans with a friend to go. It was a perfect alignment of timing, but unfortunately not so much with the weather. That day we woke to gale force winds and rain falling sideways.  However, aware that this was my only shot to see this magical blue field, we fought our way through wind and headed to Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture. (Side note: Ibaraki was voted as Japans least attractive prefecture a few years ago, and I’m here to prove it wrong... or at the very least it speaks volumes for the beauty of the rest of Japan)
 
A limited express train and a quaint countryside train ride later, we found ourselves at the seaside park. It was still incredibly rainy and windy and not at all ideal flower viewing weather, but we embraced the absurdity of the situation and ploughed through. 
 
After paying our admission we headed straight for the main attraction. The park was surprisingly busy considering the terrible weather, but I was able to feel solidarity with the other people who were clearly as desperate as us to see the flowers. I’ll let my photos speak for themselves. 
As you can see, we actually had a brief moment of sunshine. We used the opportunity to buy some Nemophila flavored ice cream (blue flavor?). After taking the Instagram quota of photos here, we moved on to explore other areas of the park. That day there also happened to be a kids BMX tournament. It was our first time seeing something like this in Japan, so we stopped and watched for a while. 
 
BMX. Photo: Author
Park Aesthetics. Photo: Author
Photo: Author
Photo: Author
Finally we ended up in the Tulip area of the park. It almost pains me to say this, considering how keen I was to see the Nemophila, but the Tulip exhibition was truly incredible. Thousands of artfully planted tulips formed beautiful patterns under a canopy of large pine trees. The setting was idyllic to say the least. It also helped that the weather had considerably cleared up. 
 
Seriously! Photo: Author
Photo: Author
After a few hours of wandering through the flowers, we made our way back to the tiny train, then the bigger train, then Tokyo. If you are ever in the area around late April to mid May and are interested in flowers, I would recommend a visit to Hitachi Seaside Park. The park has many seasonal events, so if you can’t make it in May, check the flower calendar on their website.
Photo: Author

Caitlin Frunks