How is it that, given my acknowledged love of Japanese gardens, I rarely seem to write many up on this blog? Let’s change that, shall we? 🙂 Today starts the first of my Great Gardens series, and no better spot to begin with than the currently blooming Kawachi Fujien.
For the past few years, several stunning wisteria photos have been circulating on the internet. I myself saw them back in 2013 (on Pinterest, maybe?) and while everyone raved over how gorgeous they were, not ONE SINGLE PERSON actually credited the garden they came from. Even with some hours of super sleuthing on the internet, I was still drawing a blank. I was beginning to think they were all photo-shopped when I stumbled across the name Kawachi Fujien and rejoiced – the beauty was indeed real.
Kawachi Fujien, or Kawachi Wisteria Garden, is a private garden located in the hills outside Kitakyushu (northern Fukuoka Prefecture). The “private” designator may account for the lack of advertising it seems to do and even my friends in Kumamoto had no idea this garden existed. Yet wisteria lovers “in the know” flock here in the two weeks encompassing late April and early May to see the exquisite trellises and tunnels of purple.
The garden is laid out on a hillside, so be prepared for a bit of walking. At the entrance, two long wisteria tunnels run side-by-side. The flowers curl over the tunnels’ roofs so it feels like the blossoms are raining down on the inside. The colors here range from snowy white to deep indigo and seeing the different hues stacked against each other is quite the effect.
From the end of the tunnels, you emerge near the wisteria domes, great spots for photo ops. From there, it’s a short climb to the main wisteria pergola, which spreads over several hundred square meters. It is mostly covered by light purple wisteria which, when viewed from above, looks like a soft pillowy carpet. There are benches here so feel free to relax or bring a small picnic to enjoy.
An inclined path runs along the far side of the garden, connecting the viewing spot at the very top of the garden to the tunnels back at the bottom. Along the way, you pass yet another pergola with blooms slightly darker than those in the main section.
The entrance fee is rather ingenious, ranging from ¥200 to ¥1000 based on how much of the garden is in full bloom. When I was there this past Sunday, the fee was ¥800. We were just shy of the best days but I still felt very satisfied with what I got to see.
Kawachi Fujien is a challenge to reach. By car, take the Yahata exit off of the Kyushu Expressway and then use a GPS (). A good landmark is the Ajisai Onsen complex just below the garden. Parking for Kawachi Fujien however is slightly further up the hill on the right. Parking is free and despite the crowds, they have lots of staff and a decent system in place. If you are coming by public transport, take the train to JR Yahata station. Bus #56 will run you most of the way there. Get off at Kawachi Fuji Elementary School and walk 10-15 minutes in the direction of Ajisai no Yu. In springtime, there are signs (in Japanese) with purple arrows pointing to the wisteria garden.