Would you like to visit a place listed in the 2014 dream vacation wish-list by CNN? Do you want to see almost 150-year-old Wisteria, which has been described as “almost identical to Avatar’s spiritual Tree of Souls” ? If you enjoy feeling at one with nature, then Ashikaga Flower Park is definitely the place for you.
It is open year-round and depending on the season, there are 8 distinct flower seasons a year in the park.
1) To see Pheasant’s eye, Christmas rose and Winter Clematis blooming, the Spring season is recommended, which lasts from early January to late February
2) For Tulips, Crocus and Thunberg’s meadowsweet, come to the Spring Flower Festival from early March to mid-April
3) For Japanese Wisteria, Azalea and Peony, then visit during Wisteria Story season from mid April to mid May
4) Rainbow Garden season is for people, who enjoy Roses, Rhododendrons and Clematis. It is from mid May to early June
5) At Blue and White Garden season, from early June to early July, you’ll see Iris, Hydrangea and late blossoming Clematis
6) The highlight of Water Nymphs season is water Lilies. You can also see Pheasant’s eye, Christmas rose and Clematis from early July to late September
7) From early October to late November is the best time to enjoy Amethyst sage or Mexican bush sage, Lantana and tropical water Lilies. This season is called Purple Garden
8) And last, but not least Bejeweled Flower Garden season features Illuminations. Along with festive illuminations, the highlights of this season are Pansies and Violas. More information can be found here: http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/seasons.html
We visited Ashikaga Flower Park during one of the most popular, and therefore, the busiest season; Wisteria Story season. Wisteria is considered to be one of the prime attractions of this park and their season occurs during Japanese “Golden Week” – a week or so of consecutive national holidays in Japan. So, don’t be surprised if you see many Japanese people visiting during this season too. Wisteria is known as the “Fuji flower” in Japan and is said to be one of the most ancient flowers in the country. Light pink, purple, white and yellow Wisterias can be found blooming in the park one after another during this season. In the order of color, this is how Wisteria blooms: light pink – purple – white – yellow. Wisterias growing on a trellis are a beautiful sight to behold, as you see the various colours cascading across the trellis. Although the theme mainly revolves around Wisteria, it is not the only flower you will be able to see in the park. 5000 Japanese Azaleas, Peony and several hundreds of other flowers can be seen and will give you a true sense of the blossoming Spring atmosphere. There were many food stalls, restaurants and souvenir shops featuring mainly Japanese, but also Western-style food in the park. You can also grab your own lunch and eat around the tables or benches located all around. As for food recommendations, don’t miss out on the seasonal Wisteria ice-cream and milk-shake, it is so unusual and I bet it’s something you’ve probably never tasted before. For those who are less adventurous when it comes to their ice-cream choices, there is also vanilla, strawberry, lemon, and many other flavours too. The park is the perfect place to relax, enjoy the scenery, take some great photographs, and to buy some wonderful souvenirs such as Wisteria perfume, sweets, and much more. Also if you decide to stay until the evening, you can enjoy the illuminations of the park after the sun goes down. You will be able to see that the night Wisteria experience is quite different from the day.
You can find more information about types of Wisteria and their blooming seasons on the park’s website: http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/story.html
The entry fee to the park varies depending on the season, so make sure to check the website for the latest information (here is the link, although it is in Japanese it is easy to understand the dates http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/fee.html ). There is often a discount to visit during off peak hours, such as after 5.30pm For Wisteria Story season, we visited during full bloom and entry was 1500 yen for adults with a discount of 300 yen for entry after 5.30 pm.
If you would like to take in some shopping after visiting the park, Sano Premium Outlet is not too far from here (http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/sano/).
How to get to the park
There are several ways to get to Ashikaga Flower Park. They range from readily organised package tours to more affordable, but evidently longer commutes.
Tours: Japan’s larger tour agencies provide one-day trips from major stations in Tokyo, such as Shinjuku station. The price is around 10,000 yen and includes transportation expenses, entry ticket price and a bento lunch box.
Train route 1: taking the shuttle bus (a 20 minute ride, 400 yen) from Ashikagashi station (buses depart at certain times and only during certain seasons, so make sure to check the bus schedule in advance). To get to Ashikagashi station from Tokyo station, take the JR Joban line to Kita-Senju and Ryomo Express on Tobu Skyline Tree. It will cost you a little more than 2,000 yen and will take around 90 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a regular train with a couple of transfers on the way and it should cost you around 1,400 yen and take about 2 hours.
Train route 2: walking for 15 minutes from Tomita station. To get to Tomita station, take the JR Utsunomiya line to Oyama (Tochigi) and transfer to the JR Ryomo line there. It will cost you about 2,000 yen and will take around 2 hours. You can reach Oyama station by bullet train as well, in that case the cost will be higher at up to 4,500 yen, but the journey only takes 90 minutes.