As loyal martyaki readers may recall, last spring I visited the the famous wisteria in full bloom at Kawachi Fuji-en garden in Kitakyushu, about 1000 km away from my home in Yokohama. This year I decided to check out the wisteria hysteria a little closer to home, heading to Ashikaga Flower Park outside Tokyo. My friend Jeannie joined me, and we lucked out with amazing blooms and perfect weather for our flowery road trip.
We decided to pack a picnic lunch, and I brought a folding table and chairs. As we arrived and parked in a remote parking lot we decided whether or not to bring our food with us. We opted to leave it in the car instead of carrying it around, figuring we would sort out lunch later.
We arrived in the park and saw show-stopping blooms right away.
Large purple wisteria bloomed and peaked the week before; we arrived in time for the height of white wisteria season. As with Kawachi Fuji-en, Ashikaga left me pretty much speechless. There simply aren’t words to describe the incredible beauty, the intoxicating smell–all of it. While the gorgeous fragrant panicles of white blooms inevitably catch the visitor’s eye first, I found myself drawn to the interiors of the trees’ canopies. The intricate, gnarled vines illuminated by the soft glow of the surrounding flowers…just amazing.
During our visit we noticed many seating areas of tables and chairs where visitors enjoyed both picnic lunches and food purchased on site. We also saw lockers near the entrance that would have been the perfect place to stash our lunches instead of carrying them during our visit. Live and learn, we mused. Then we headed to car to enjoy our own feast.
The walk back to the park was far enough that we decided to set up a tailgate right in the parking lot. So Jeannie and I laid out our spread and sat down to enjoy our lunch. The other cars that had completely surrounded ours when we arrived had departed, leaving ours the only car around.
Within a few minutes a pink-shirted parking attendant arrived. Despite my three years of Japanese lessons I didn’t understand too many of his actual, you know, words. But his body language was pretty hard to miss, especially the crossed forearms that Japanese people tend to display to uncomprehending foreigners. “Cars, do you understand?”, he asked in Japanese. “Yes, I understand,” I replied, also in Japanese. “But there are no cars.” We sat entirely by ourselves, surrounded by empty spots. “We will finish eating in ten minutes,” I added.
He looked utterly flummoxed, then pantomimed for us to eat fast. Clearly he expected us to apologize meekly and start packing up right away. But alas–nothing stands between a hungry gaijin (foreigner) and her sandwich.