Throughout May and June a wide variety of iris bloom in bunches around the garden ponds of Kyoto. Springing from the water and shores in shades of purple, white, blue, and yellow, these ornamental flowers add a decorative splash of color to the gardens of the old capital. Memorialized in Japanese paintings and poetry for over a thousand years, the elegant iris has been cultivated to compliment traditional garden aesthetics used to this day.
The three varieties referred to as Japanese iris are kakitsubata (iris laevigata, "rabbit-ear iris"), hana shōbu (iris ensata, "Japanese water iris"), and ayame (iris sanguinea, "blood iris"), and each has its own distinctive shape and color for the discerning eye to pick out from the crowd.
Some of the well-known sightseeing spots for iris include the sprawling gardens of Heian Jingū, the National Natural Monument that is Ota Shrine, the birdwatcher's dream temple Kajū-ji, Umenomiya Taisha shrine in the west of the old capital, the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, the azalea-famous Nagaoka Tenmangū, and the Kyoto Botanical Gardens.