Stationed in Japan? Step back in time in Sawara!

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Stationed in Japan? Step back in time in Sawara!

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Only a few hours’ drive from most bases in the Kanto Plain, Sawara in Chiba Prefecture is an attractive town, known as “Koedo,” or little Edo, that preserves the original townhouses and streets from the Edo period, allowing for a glimpse at the former glory of the samurai capital.

Situated along the Tone River, Sawara accommodates various canals, ponds and waterways. The district is known for being a host to beautiful iris flowers, which draw many locals to enjoy them during the rainy season in early summer.

For the famous blooms, visit Sawara Iris Park, where there are over 400 different types of irises and over 1.5 million iris flowers in total between June and July. You can catch a park full of white, pink, violet and blue irises. The ponds, small rivers and bridges, along with traditional boats operated by ladies in blue kimonos, brought a touch of nostalgia.

Hop on a boat to enjoy the irises on water. The park’s souvenir shops offer iris flowers, local food and sweets, and even a sweet potato ice cream!

Be sure to stroll around the center city of Sawara after visiting the park.

With a classic-looking wooden bridge, the old town of Sawara is surrounded by storehouses and merchant buildings, still standing and in remarkable condition, dating back to the late Edo period. Willow trees line the riverbank and the streets are surrounded by dark-brown wooden buildings and grey-tiled roofs, making you feel like you’ve been transported into an old samurai movie.

Back in its heyday, Sawara’s waterway was vital for the transport of soy sauce, miso and rice from the countryside. Some of the wooden boats are still around and you will see a few of them, except now they carry tourists instead of food.

During rainy season, Sawara is the place to go if you want to enjoy graceful iris and hydrangea in a traditional Japanese setting. Check it out!


Sawara Iris Park

Location: 1837-2, Ogishima, Katori City, Chiba Pref.

Hours: Tue – Sun, Jul 3 – Aug 1 (lotus festival): 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., August 2 -: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Admission: May-Aug, adult: 600 yen, middle and elementary schoolers: 300 yen, Sept – Nov, adult: 200 yen, middle and elementary schoolers: 100 yen , Dec- Apr, free

Website (Japanese)

Tel: 0478-56-0411


Sawara Tourist Center

Location: 74-31 Sawara I, Katori City, Chiba Pref.

Hours: Tue – Sun, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Website (Japanese)

Tel: 0478-52-6675

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