Stop & Smell the Roses in Ashikaga

If you’re a fan of roses, gardens or just flowers in general, Ashikaga Flower Park is a must-see when you’re in central Japan. It’s located in the Tochigi prefecture, about two hours away from Tokyo. One of its most popular attractions is the Wisteria Festival in April and early May, but there’s still plenty to see and enjoy if your timing doesn’t sync up.Roses-4I went at the end of May hoping to catch the end of the wisteria season. I’ve heard it’s truly amazing, and since I’ll be moving soon, I didn’t want to miss my chance. But… I was too late. By the time I got there, most of them were gone. I didn’t get to experience trellis after trellis of colorful dangling blossoms. But I did make it in time to examine countless roses of all varieties in colors I’ve never seen.Roses-5The park has several different flowering seasons that they refer to as stories; I went during the Rainbow Garden Story. There were thousands of vibrant blooms covering almost every inch of the 20-acre park. Most of them were roses, but there were many others as well. I’m not a flower connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close. But I   do love flowers. And all the ones I saw there were enchanting. I especially loved the single rose-covered gazebo that housed one small table with only two chairs overlooking one of the ponds in the park. It’s a perfect spot to stop and smell the roses. And enjoy the view.Roses-3My second favorite feature of the park is the ice cream. Yes, you read that right. Ice. Cream. Not only is Japanese soft-serve ice cream the best I’ve ever had anywhere (very creamy and not overly sweet), but the park offers flower flavors. I imagine the flavors are based on the park’s flower story of the moment because when I went they offered rose and wisteria-flavored soft serve. If that isn’t the case, and they just offer both those flavors all year round, it’s still pretty great. They aren’t flavors I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I tried the wisteria, and it was DELICIOUS.IMG_1572My experience at Ashikawa Flower Park was pretty great. The flowers were exquisite, and the grounds were extremely well-kept. And the gift shop was full of unique and interesting snacks like rose-flavored popcorn and wisteria soda. Not to mention, it had a great number of seasonal blooms and plants for purchase. 😊

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Flower Seasons/Stories

Visitors can appreciate an array of flowers throughout the year at Ashikaga Flower Park. The park changes its displays about every six weeks. It presents eight exhibits, or stories, throughout the year, highlighting certain plants when they are at their peak. The eight seasons are listed below.

  1. Heralding Spring  (Pheasant’s Eye, Christmas Rose, & Winter Clematis): early January to late February
  2. Spring Flower Festival (Tulips, Crocus, & Thunberg’s Meadowsweet): early March to mid-April
  3. Wisteria Story (Wisteria, Azaleas, & Peonies): mid-April to mid-May
  4. Rainbow Garden (Roses, Clematises, & Rhododendrons): mid-May to early June
  5. Blue and White Garden (Hydrangeas, Irises, & late-blooming Clematises): early June to early July
  6. Water Nymphs (Lantanas & Tropical Water Lilies): early July to late September
  7. Purple Garden (Amethyst Sage & Pansies): late early October to late November
  8. Bejeweled Flower Garden (Pansies, Violas & Flower Fantasy Nighttime Illumination): end of October to late January

The Flower Fantasy illumination is quite spectacular. Millions of tiny LED lights light up the special displays throughout the park. It’s one of the most popular winter illuminations in Japan.

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Getting There

There are a few ways to get to Ashikaga depending on where you’re coming from. I drove. I live in Tokyo, and the drive wasn’t terrible. It’s only about two hours away (traffic was pretty light the day I went), and the tolls weren’t too expensive. However, the train is also an option if you’re coming from Tokyo and either don’t have a car or license to drive in Japan or don’t want to spend the money on tolls.  There are a variety of routes and trains you can take. Taking the Shonan-Shinjuku Rapid to Oyama from Shinjuku Station and then transferring to the Ryomo Line toward Takasaki until you reach Tomita Station is the fastest and the easiest way to get there.  It takes two hours and costs about $17 USD (¥1,944) each way. Another choice is to take a reserved seat train. It takes about the same amount of time but costs a little more ($30/¥3390 each way). Once you get to the station, it’s about a ten-minute walk to the park.

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Admission

Park admission varies on the season and event with adult prices varying from ¥300 to ¥1800 for adults. The park’s two most popular and expensive events are the Tale of Fuji No Hana (Wisteria Festival) and the Flower Fantasy Illumination.

 

 

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