Gyoda Ancient Lotus Park
Prehistoric flowers and record-breaking rice paddy art at this park in rural Saitama.
Imagine stumbling upon something that has been dead for over a millennium and bringing it back to life, and you’ll have an idea of what happened at Kodai Hasu no Sato in Gyoda.
Some lotus seeds were discovered by chance at a garbage factory and planted. But once flowered, they looked decidedly funky compared to normal lotus flowers. Further examination revealed that these lotus seeds were actually 1400 years old, and now, you can only see this kind of lotus in Gyoda, in northern Saitama prefecture.
There are 42 different kinds of lotus flowers at the free-entry park. The ancient Gyoda lotus blooms from the end of June to the beginning of August, but the park is a delight to visit at any time of the year, with each area labelled so that you can see the growth of the flowers from the seed husks to the leaves. Pick up some seed husks as souvenirs to take a prehistoric memory home with you.
Just the lotus flowers are enough to warrant a visit, but Gyoda also holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest rice field art at 28000 square meters. You can watch the progress from June and see the final design until about mid-November – after all it is rice and people need to eat. The rice paddy changes designs every year; 2016’s is based on the Dragon Quest video game.
The park is free entry, but to see the rice art and lotus flowers from above you’ll need to pay 400 yen to go into the Kodai Hasu Kaikan, which gives you access to the 50-meter-tall observation tower along with a gallery of previous rice art displays and an exhibit about the discovery of the ancient lotus and other plants native to Gyoda.