Mt. Esan in the east of Hakodate City becomes beautifully red with Tsutsuji flowers▲Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch
Mt. Esan, located in the east of Hakodate City is an active volcano 618 meters above sea level. There are no plants near the summit but there are greens at the foot of the mountain, and it becomes beautifully red with Tsusuji (azalea) flowers. “Esan Tsutusji Festival” is held annually at the end of May at “Esan Tsutsuji Park” located at the foot of the mountain. Many people visit here to see the beautifully colored mountain.
▲Mt. Esan has no plants near the summit. (Photo provided by Minami Hokkaido Photo Library)
Over 600,000 azalea grow naturally at the foot of Mt. EsanIt is said that there are over 600,000 azaleas at the foot of the mountain. Surprisingly, most of the azaleas grew naturally. It is not planted to make the mountain beautiful for sightseeing purposes. Azaleas have been coloring the mountain all red from a long time ago.
Most of the azaleas in Mt. Esan is Ezoyama Tsutsuji. It starts to bloom around mid-May every year and different kind of azaleas bloom gradually. First, Ezoyama Tsutsuji, then purplish red Sarasadoudan and finally white Ezoiso Tsutsuji.
▲Sarasadoudan in Mt. Esan. (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
You will be able to enjoy the beautiful red picture of the mountain when you look up the summit from the foot of the mountain.
If you climb about half way to the summit and look down, you can see the bright red azaleas under and blue Tsugaru Straits far back. When the weather is good, you will be able to see a part of Aomori Prefecture.
▲Azalea and Tsugaru Straits from the foot of the mountain. (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
The promenades are gradually built from around 1975 to make many people become able to access this beautiful view. Finally, “Esan Tsutsuji Park” was built. The park does not have any fancy sightseeing facilities or attractions but there are promenades and small cottages to rest. This is the park to relax and enjoy azaleas.
▲The promenade in Esan Tsutsuji Park. (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
“Esan Tsutsuji Festival” is going to be held from 22 May to 29 May in 2016“Esan Tsutsuji Festival” is held annually around late May, when the azaleas become in full bloom.
The festival started from 1968 and 2016 is the 48th festival. The festival is held from 22 May to 29 May this year.
Especially, many events are going to be held at the special venue on the last day of the festival 29 May. There will be stage shows, pony riding, and market including seafood market.
Many people visit here during the festival every year but the last day seems to gather people!
▲The view of “Esan Tsutsuji Park” (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
When is the best time of azaleas in Mt. Esan?Probably everyone’s attention is: when is the best time to see azaleas? Usually, it was late May but what is actual? In 2016, sakura bloomed early so azaleas are early too?
Don’t worry. Hakodate City’s website updates the blooming status of azaleas with photos! You will be able to find out if it’s not yet bloomed, or it is now.
▲Mt. Esan’s Tsutsuji in full bloom. (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
In addition, Tsutsuji in Mt. Esan blooms at different periods of time depending where they are grown.
After the best time of Ezoyama Tsutsuji at the foot is over, the middle of the mountain will become in full bloom. At the same time, different kind of azaleas start to bloom and after few days, they will start blooming in the middle… Tsutsuji keeps people’s attraction for about half a month.
▲The color of azaleas gradually climbs up the mountain. (Photo provided by Hakodate City Esan Branch)
There is a road so you are able to drive the car to the middle of the mountain. This road is also recommended to enjoy the change of azaleas depending on the mountain height!
However, parts of the road are very narrow and sometimes there are steep slopes so be careful when you drive.
* The road is closed for normal vehicles on 29 May due to the crush by the event “Esan Tsutsuji Matsuri”. Instead, shuttle busses are running. Check the details at Hakodate Cit website.
Lots of flowers bloom at different places in spring Hokkaido. The flower attractions season is here now.
Mt. Esan’s azaleas became popular sights recently, with lots of group tour buses stop by. Be sure to have enough time when you visit here. 600,000 azaleas are so beautiful! It is a must-see sight in Hakodate.
Text / Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer nobu Kawashima