- I was here: April 27th, 2013, and that year the flowering was already ending.
- Time needed to visit it: one hour.
- My score: 4/5.
After the pristine beaches in Yoron-to, a post-apocalyptic village in Hashima and a fairy-tale river in Takachiho, now it’s the turn of one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, which like the previous ones, practically all foreign tourists miss.
WHEN TO GO
The spectacular nature of the garden depends on:
- The wisteria blossoming (fuji), which has already make this garden become famous. It is a type of climbing tree of the genus Wisteria, native of eastern Asia and the United States, that generates clusters of very dense flowers in white, violet or blue colors. Its branches can grow more than one meter a year, and their trunks become real trees. In the Kawachi Fuji-en there are more than 150. Therefore, in spring it only opens at flowering time; maximum is between the end of April and the beginning of May. The first of May is the Golden Week, the biggest Japanese holiday; it is expected that the garden will be packed, but there’s no alternative.
- There is also another interesting moment, since the garden happens to have more than 700 Japanese maples (momiji), which in autumn offers a beautiful show with its reddish leaves.
Like the previous attractions, it is also in Kyushu, that magnificent region undervalued by us, the gaijin. However, a difference from the aforementioned, Kawachi Fuji-en is easily accessible; is located in the outskirts in the southwestern area of Kitakyushu city, the first city on the island coming from Honshu and 65 km northeast of Fukuoka.
HOW TO GET THERE
The most common way to go is by private vehicle. On important days heavy bottlenecks are formed. There are 200 free parking spaces.
We will have to use it again and change to a local train to Yahata station. From there, we will have to take a bus:
- In the fortnight of high season there is a free shuttle, which can get involved in traffic jams. It leaves every 30 minutes.
- Apart from those days, the Nishitetsu 56 bus goes every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (returns 30 minutes later). From Yahata station, it gets to Kawachi Elementary School, which is a 15-minute walk to the entrance (25 minutes, 260 ¥ one way). It’s the one that I used, since I went the last week that was open in 2013.
A taxi from Yahata station costs around 2700 ¥ one way and takes about 20 minutes if there is no traffic jam.
SCHEDULES AND PRICES
The opening days and prices change each year depending on the flowering of wisteria and the autumn color change of maples.
- Spring: usually from mid-April to mid-May. From 8 am to 6 pm. Price per adult between 500 and 1500 ¥ (more expensive the more flowery).
- Autumn: usually from the middle of November to the beginning of December. From 9 am to 5 pm. Same price.
Given the enormous popularity that is reaching, in high season (normally last week of April and first of May) tickets must be bought in advance, and have a designated date and time. They cost 500 ¥, but once we get to the garden, we will be informed if there is more to pay (in cash) depending on the state of flowering. They can be bought from the middle of March in machines in 7-Eleven and Family Mart stores, but they are in Japanese, although knowing the extraordinary education and kindness of Japanese people, I assume that the staff of these establishments will be more than willing to help us. The only way to buy them in English is through the website japanican.com on dates close to the opening of the garden.
Outside these two weeks, tickets can be purchased at the entrance of Kawachi Fuji-en without advance notice, as I did.
Inaugurated in April 1968, its two wisteria tunnels are making it world famous. Some will say that tunnels of these plants are found in many botanical gardens; without leaving Japan we find them, for example, in Ashikaga Flower Park, another extraordinary garden 100 km north of Tokyo, with varieties whose bunches of flowers reach one meter long, or without going any further in Málaga, Spain. The difference is that although the one in Málaga measures approximately 30 meters long and has only one type of flowers, those of the Kawachi Fuji measure 110 and 80 meters respectively and alternate white flowers with violet and dark blue. The result seems to be taken from a fairy tale, a magical tunnel of charming and fascinating beauty, even it was not in its maximum bloom when I was there.
The route continues towards the north, where the wisteria branches of huge trunks have been arranged forming a roof of flowers covering a surface 100 meters long by 25 wide, although their flowers are less leafy and colorful than those of the tunnels.
And almost everything that surrounds the garden are maples, which in spring will have a beautiful green color, although the reddish tones of autumn are more attractive.
To finish the visit, the most logical thing is to take a walk through the second wisteria tunnel, somewhat shorter than the previous one.