Sunflowers need full sun to grow best and bloom beautifully. If you’re tired of seeing the usual spots in the city, and you just want to have fun and take lots of pictures this summer, why not try driving to Zama and take photos of its sunflower fields? Since it’s summer in Japan, the flowers are surely beautiful in natural light. The sunflower is named after its huge fiery blooms whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. It is the state flower of the US state of Kansas and one of the city flowers of Kitakyūshū, Japan and Zama.
Flower fanatics and nature lovers are flocking to Japan as the annual Sunflower Festival or Himawari Matsuri kicks off in Zama. Zama is a city located in central Kanagawa Prefecture and is also the home to the US Camp Zama Army base. Some people say that this place is ideal for these fiery blooms to grow, because of its soil and hilly areas. Zama is also known for its drinking water, which is opposite the temperature of two seasons: cold in the summer and warm in the winter.
The Himawari Matsuri is held from late July through August, where more than half a million sunflowers bloom and displayed at various locations in Zama. The festival boasts 30 types of sunflowers from around the world. Some of the plants grow as tall as 5 feet with huge inflorescence that could grow as huge as an ordinary plate.
Aside from the huge sunflower maze, various events are held in sunflower fields throughout the season, featuring fireworks and live music, and offering visitors tasty treats, from sunflower seeds to sunflower beer.
The sunflower is also very useful. Along with sunflower oil, which has been popular even in Europe since the 16th century, they it has also become a widespread cooking ingredient. Sunflower leaves can also be used as cattle feed while the stems can be used for paper production. The plant itself has the ability to exact toxic ingredients from the soil such as lead, arsenic and uranium. In fact, after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, some volunteers and environment campaigners in Japan planted sunflowers to help decontaminate the radioactive soil.
It could be a long drive from the city to Zama, and because it’s summer, it’s best to bring protection from the heat, like wide visors, sunglasses and lots of water. Also keep your camera batteries fully charged–you wouldn’t want to miss the perfect light and angle to take a breathtaking photo of the sea of sunflowers in bloom.