As Japan celebrated Golden Week (longest vacation period in Japan) last week, I visited the very popular Ashikaga Flower Park – a flower theme park located in Tochigi Prefecture. While the flowers are open for viewing all year-round, the main reason that brought me here was for the annual Wisteria Festival.
You may have seen photographs and videos surfacing your Facebook feed of this popular Wisteria garden. It has gained an immense social media buzz in the past few years. Since the time I’ve lived in Japan, cherry blossoms were the most sought after flower viewing period but now people have wisteria flowers to look forward to after the closure to sakura season. Last year, I saw wisteria for the first time in a small garden in Tokyo, which you may read about here. Since then, I knew I wanted to visit Ashikaga Flower Park to see the 150 years old Great Wisteria.
The park holds over 350 wisteria trees and is known to be Japan’s largest collection of wisteria flowers that is spread across 600 tatami trellis area, as well as an 80 meter long white wisteria tunnel. Wisteria blooms once a year from late April to mid May. However, this year as they happened to bloom early April, I was unable to capture them in their full vibrant bloomed color. Nonetheless, it was mesmerizing to have seen them at their latter phase. There are four main areas with wisteria trellises at the park – varying in the length of the purple wisteria. Wisteria floribunda, aka Japanese wisteria is a sight to see with the naked eye. The long strings of cascading flower clusters do not make for just a pretty sight but also serve a nice fragrance. With so many people hoarding around the wisteria section, I luckily managed to sneak in a couple of shots amidst the crowd.
The Ashikaga Flower Park is only 2 hours from Tokyo, which is very easily accessible by public transportation, making it great for a day trip. There are two popular Wisteria gardens in Japan; Ashikaga Flower Park and Kawachi Fuji Garden – although the latter one is very far from Tokyo.
The Ashikaga Flower Park is not your usual Japanese garden. With a very fresh and lively vibe to the park with a vast array of flowers and seating locations, it’s a great way to spend the day with friends or family sauntering the garden. There are plenty of food stalls around, indeed overpriced, but worth the nibble regardless.
The park was extremely crowded – I cant really tell if it’s because of the peak full bloom season, Golden Week or both. Also, be open to queuing up for pretty much everything within the park.
A lesser known but still popular flower garden is the Tobu Treasure Garden that covers 8 hectares with beautiful flowers in different themes. The garden is in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture and is a great place to make a pit stop at before heading to the Ashikaga Flower Garden as it comes on the way.
Since I reached right when the garden was about to open, I didn’t have to tackle the heavy crowds that poured right around noon when I was leaving to head to the Ashikaga Flower Park – phew. Highly recommend to see this place first and then head to Ashikaga so the you can catch the wisteria trellis during the day and night.
Spring season brings so much joy and happiness with fresh flowers blooming everywhere. If you’re a flower fan you won’t be disappointed by either of the parks. Even if you’re not the biggest botanical fan this trip up north of Tokyo is still worth it. Just a heads up to pack plenty of patience along with your portable charger – literally sat and rummaged through over 500 pictures for this blog post!