Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi prefecture
There’s only one reason to trek all the way out to Ashikaga at the beginning of May, and that’s to see the astoundingly huge wisteria at the Ashikaga Flower Park. But guess what? It’s amazing at other times of year too! The thing that’s special about Ashikaga isn’t just that the wisteria are of Guinness Book proportions, it’s that the park is designed with reflecting pools everywhere, to double the wow. And they’ve mastered the art of planting lots and lots of blooming things together, for maximum impact. Whatever the time of year, your photos will knock the sox off your nearest and dearest, guaranteed.
I’ve been to Ashikaga Flower Park during three of its seasons: wisteria, iris and winter illuminations.
Mid-April to Mid-May
Iris & Hydrangea
Early June to Mid-July
And finally, when you least expect a flower park to be top of your must-see list, these.
The Ashikaga Flower Park has great flowers the rest of the year too. (I bet the tulips are pretty amazing, for starters.) Scroll down on this page from their website, and click on the photos to see the other seasons.
Admission: There are two kinds of tickets, daytime (9:00-17:30) and nighttime (17:30-21:00). Depending on what’s in bloom, the ticket prices change. During peak wisteria season, it can be as high as ¥1900 for a daytime ticket and ¥1600 for a nighttime one. Children’s tickets are half the price of adult tickets. You can find out the exact amounts for the day you plan to be there on the Ashikaga Flower Park website. Author’s note: If you want to save money, you can come at 17:30, buy only the nighttime ticket, and still take “daytime” photos for about an hour before it gets really dark. The park is big, so you need to move pretty quickly if you want to snap all the worthy stuff while there’s still daylight left, but it can be done. I prefer biting the bullet and enjoying the park all afternoon and evening in a leisurely way, but it does get pretty pricey.
Open days: The park is open every day (except for a couple of odd holidays noted on the website’s English info page). That page also has a handy red button so you can check to see if the flowers are worth going out to see that day. I strongly suggest checking it before you go, to save you the disappointment of a long train ride if the flowers bloom sooner or later than you hoped.
Hours: The park hours also change with the seasons, so be sure to check the website’s English info page for the day you plan to be there. In general, it’s from 9:00-21:00, but opens earlier during wisteria season.
Here’s where Ashikaga is:
Here’s how to get to Ashikaga from Tokyo:
Once you get there, it’s just a four minute walk down the main street in front of the station to the park entrance.
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, with your actual date and departure time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Kita-Senju Station from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it. Note: This entire route uses JR trains, so if you’re going to be traveling anywhere else in Japan by train during the time you’re there, it might be cheaper to buy a JR Rail Pass. Here’s where you can figure out if that would be a good idea.
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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had