May 3, 2019
Gallery - Spring flowers on the Tobu Urban Park Line
The wisteria in sunshine at Tokaen Wisteria Garden in Kasukabe City
Before Golden Week started, the weather reports didn’t look good for the Kanto region. I’d already decided on a “staycation”, spending my time locally, so I carefully budgeted my time around the few sunny days we would get. Tuesday to Thursday we’re going to be rained out. I braved the drizzle and gloom anyway, but caught a lot of bright sunshine, too.
I live on the Tobu Urban Park Line, between Kashiwa and Omiya Stations. There are many lovely places to see in Golden Week on this route, so I figured I would enjoy the local culture and color.
On the first weekend, my objective was to take in the gorgeous wisteria in Kasukabe City.
In previous years, I had learned to appreciate the beauty of the purple and white cascades of flowers in the front street of Kasukabe Station, and the festival to celebrate the kilometer-long avenue of fujidana, wisteria arbors. Every year, Kasukabe City folks and people from all around come to the Fuji Matsuri to experience Edo Period entertainments, taiko drum performances and marching bands. There is street food and all kinds of events for families to enjoy. The celebrations are shaded by the lavender and ivory dangling flowers.
Mark your calendar for the last week of April next year
This year, I learned about Tokaen, a wisteria garden in the city. On the morning of April 27th, at my apartment not far away, I saw a break in the clouds. I raced to the train station to catch a ride to see the wisteria between showers.
The garden opened on April 20th, so I wondered if the flowers were at their peak. When I arrived at the platform, I saw and heard many people checking the walking route to the garden. It’s a mere 10 minutes from Fuji no Ushijima Station. Curiously, I heard Chinese voices besides Japanese. These wisteria were certainly interesting to all kinds of people. But why? I would discover at the garden.
The garden is on the site of a deconsecrated Shingoro Buddhist temple. Little remains but some Jizo statues and a monument or two. The story is that, about 1200 years ago, the Buddhist scholar Kobo Daishi passed though the region. Kobo Daishi himself is said to have started the wisteria vines in the grounds of this temple.
They’re stunning. These wisteria are identified as national treasures in Japan. The vines twine around nearly 700 square meters of trellis, and their cascading blossoms can trail up to two meters. These wisteria are distinct from the mainland Asia variety because they are not “hairy”, and the vines twist clockwise. Japanese wisteria originated before the landmass that became Japan drifted from the southern to the northern hemisphere. On either side of the equator, plants twist the opposite way. The wisteria vines in Japan remember their southern origins.
The rain was light, which made the colors even more vivid. Later there was bright sunshine to make the flowers glow.
On April 30th, I checked the weather again in the morning. Luck! Some sunny breaks were forecast. This time my objective was my favorite local park, Shimizu Park, also on the Tobu Urban Park Line.
In this season, the tsutsuji, azaleas, are at their peak. The park was crowded with people enjoying a music and dance festival, the field athletics course, and the flowers.
I checked the map for the azalea garden. You can see it just to the right of the “You Are Here” red indicator. I thought it would be pretty.
The azalea garden observation deck
Azaleas as far as you can see
I was amazed at the variety and profusion of blossoms. A nearby sign indicated that there are a hundred varieties. And they were lovely to see in the dappled sunshine when the clouds parted.
Shimizu Park is famous for its azalea festival which finishes on May 6th. But I got a bonus, the peony display.
In the front garden of Konjoin Temple within the park, the gardeners have been nurturing a wide range of peonies.
Here’s our local dragon at the hand washing basin surrounded by peonies
The first day of Reiwa Era turned out to be damp and chilly in my part of Kanto, but I am glad to see all these gorgeous flowers right here in my neighborhood in this Golden Week.