Say the words ‘flowers’ and ‘Japan’ in the same sentence and one usually conjures up images of pretty pink cherry blossoms. Seeing the blooming of the cherry blossoms is on many travellers’ bucket list. The window to see these blooms is very narrow (about one week) and it’s not always possible to predict when it will happen.
Japan has another (perhaps slightly less well known) flower display to offer. Ashikaga Flower Park is one of a few parks that proudly boasts spectacular displays of wisterias, locally known as Fuji.
The wisterias in Ashikaga Flower Park in the Tochigi Prefecture (about 80 Kilometres from Tokyo) usually reaches full bloom between late April and beginning of May. The park spans about 94 000 square meters. The Great Wisteria of Ashikaga Flower Park is over 150 years old. Its branches are supported by beams and grids with over 600 tatami mats. This structure creates a wisteria umbrella that reaches upwards of 1000 square meters with around 80 000 individual flowers. The colourful wisteria flowers drape down over the structures, creating a colourful flower-waterfall effect.
Amongst the 11 wisteria hot spots in the park is the Great Wisteria tree of the Ashikaga Flower Park which is a Natural Monument. So is the 80-meter long tunnel of white wisterias (where the sweet scent of wisteria envelops visitors). Another 80-meter long tunnel, this time with yellow wisteria is the only one of its kind in Japan. Different coloured wisteria can be seen throughout the time of bloom. First to arrive is pale red, followed by purple, then white and lastly yellow.
The White Wisteria Waterfall drops down over the water and is about 35 meters wide and 9 meters tall. A secret spot with another white wisteria can be found by stepping around this waterfall.
Besides the wisteria, Ashikaga Flower Park hosts a number of other flowers (with 8 different annual themes) to be enjoyed – as one can expect from its name. In April tulips and spiraea start to bloom, followed by the wisteria in May. June brings the rainy season along with blue, white and pink hydrangeas and roses. Purple Amethyst Sage covers the park in October. The centre of the park hosts the ‘Sea of Azalea”
In the winter ( late October to early February), and during festival tiems the park is transformed into and Avatar-like scene with lights shaped like wisteria draped throughout the park, creating an illuminated evening scene. The Pale Pink Bridge is especially magical to see during its night-time illuminations as the lights gently reflect off of the pond below.
Besides the flowers the Ashikaga Flower Park offer a variety of unique experiences, like wisteria soft serve ice-cream and the Fuji Creamery (created in collaboration with Cold Stone Creamery) as well as wisteria noodles. There is also a number of wisteria cosmetics, candies and accessories to peruse.
The wisteria of the Ashikaga Flower Park, while perhaps not as famous as the cherry blossoms of Japan, is an equally impressive sight to behold while visiting the country. The park is open year-round but the best time to visit is between April and May when the wisteria are in full bloom – or during winter to view the spectacular light display.
*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com