Great Gardens

Great Gardens: Ashikaga Flower Park

A few years ago, wisteria wasn’t even on my radar. Sure, it’s a historical and hugely popular flower here in Japan, but having spent so much time in Okinawa up to that point, my flower knowledge mostly comprised hibiscus … and that’s it.

Alright, and cherry blossoms. Everybody knows cherry blossoms. 🙂

Then I moved to Kyushu and discovered an entirely new blooming calendar. Around the same time, the photos of the Kawachi Fujien wisteria garden in Fukuoka Prefecture went viral on the internet. Wisteria became, for a time, my new obsession.

SONY DSC

Wisteria, or “fuji” in Japanese

Fukuoka is a bit far now from my current home in Tokyo. But the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture – just north of Tokyo – allegedly boasts equally impressive display. In a quest to fulfill my seasonal wisteria quotient, I set out this past week to check it out.

From my home station of Ebisu, I had a long train ride of two hours, but only one transfer at Oyama (in Tochigi). When I arrived at the tiny train station of Tomita, it was easy to follow the crowds on the 12 minute walk to the flower park. (The way is marked, with some English signage, but if you visit during wisteria season, there are both crowds AND employees directing traffic) so you can’t get lost.)

Ashikaga Flower Park charges admission based on how “in bloom” the flowers are. On the day I went (May 2nd), the wisteria was pretty much at full bloom, so I paid the full ¥1700 admission. It’s a steep price – added to the price of a train ticket already – but I feel the garden was worth it. There are nearly a dozen major wisteria trellises, from large flat trellises to a huge half-dome to one or two tall “wall trellises”. All of them were in full bloom and while there were hordes of people milling about the garden, it was possible to get shots of some of the trellis with very few people in them.

SONY DSC

No people …

SONY DSC

PEOPLE!!

SONY DSC

And no people again 🙂

The garden also had several paths lined with small wisteria bushes – some of which looked even more impressive than the larger displays – and numerous other flower beds had been planted.

SONY DSC

A beautiful border of flowers

It wasn’t easy to navigate the heavy crowds and the lines for the bathroom were all incredibly long. I’m not sure if the visitor traffic was due to it being Golden Week, full bloom, or both. As wisteria normally always bloom during Golden Week, it’s hard to know if it will ever be less crowded.

I did find some affordable food at the stalls in the rear part of the garden, chowing down on local Utsunomiya gyoza and some allegedly special dumplings. I also managed to find a seat on a bench so I could eat my dumplings, so at least the crowds didn’t make that impossible.

SONY DSC

Special dumplings

For me, as a flower fan, the trip up from Tokyo was worth it. If you visit, remember to charge your cameras (I took over 500 photos!), bring your own bento if you don’t want to pay for food on site (though it wasn’t too pricey) and pack plenty of patience. Also, as a heads-up, wisteria attract numerous bees. I wasn’t bothered by a single one but those with an allergy may want to be aware.

SONY DSC

Busy bees

 

6 thoughts on “Great Gardens: Ashikaga Flower Park

  1. The park during Wisteria season is kitsch, but I never saw an amazing display like that before!
    I had BBQ and Icecream two years ago and didn’t need to wait at the stalls or the toilets for too long.
    Maybe more people are aware of the flower park now..

    • I think the park has gotten more “press” – much like when the photos of Kawachi Fujien in Kita-Kyushu went viral – and many of the visitors were actually Chinese and Thai.

  2. I love Wisteria! When I was a freshman in college my dorm was called Wisteria Hall. I had never noticed Wisteria before. The front entrance was lined with beautiful Wisteria in the spring. It isn’t just a beautiful flower, it also brings back some wonderful memories.

    • Wisteria wasn’t in my consciousness very much either until recently. There were some smaller wisteria displays in Tokyo, but the huge trellises at Ashikaga were definitely worth the trip.

    • Hi Josephine,
      It’s highly unlikely you’ll catch the wisteria that late. It’s nearly always finished by mid-May at the latest. I’d look instead for some early blooming hydrangea or iris spots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s