Tochigi-ken, Ashikaga-shi

Over the Songkran Festival (the Thai New Year Holiday) I took the break from school to go visit some of my family in Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. This prefecture is located about two hours north of Tokyo. The area is known mostly for the Ashikaga Flower Park, which is one of the largest wisterias. This flower park blooms beautifully with Sakura during Golden Week, but there are still other, smaller, flowers and plants to see even during the season when the wisteria is not in full bloom. There is a direct train that will go to the flower park, however I was in Ashikaga so I did not take it. Ashikaga is not a big tourist destination, however I really enjoyed the small town and being with my family. Pictured, is Takauji-kun who is the "mascot" of Ashikaga, and the founder of the town. 

This area is also quite close to Gunma Prefecture, we visited the Shibasakura park where there were medium/large fields of shibasakura. The shibasakura (flowers that grow close to the ground) bloom white and purple. The time I went was also very close to boys day, so there were many koinoburi decorating the area. The Shibasakura park also had a small strip where they were selling souvenirs (omiyage) and different kinds of food (try the sweet potato!!). The air (compared to hot Bangkok) is quite clean. In Gunma, we also went to Ikado where there is a stairway lined with shops and small restaurants leading all the way to the top where there is a temple. Theres also a small hot spring area to soak your feet in (bring a small towel to dry off) where the water is warm and you can see it running down the mountain. The view is beautiful as well, there are 365 stairs which overlook a large mountain range once you reach high enough elevation. 

There are a lot of native Japanese in these areas, and I would recommend having some of the language under your belt. I was with my family, all of whom speak Japanese, and it was quite a lovely experience. Beautiful areas to see, but not the feeling of overwhelming hustle and bustle of Tokyo. 

Lindsey Kosaki