Home to the nation's oldest school and a clan that once ruled Japan, now a kingdom of flowers
Ashikaga is a quiet little city in Tochigi Prefecture . Primarily known for silk textiles and a park that elevates the viewing of flowers to something magical, it also boasts a remarkable history due to a lively shogunate clan.
Floral profusion like you've never seen before
Ashikaga Flower Park is an overwhelming experience of sight and scent that the world outside it seems washed out by comparison. Best known for its wisteria—including a tunnel through the pink, purple, blue and white flowers—the park covers 25 acres with blooms that vary with the seasons. There are events throughout the year, and of special note is the wisteria light up event that gives the flowers an even more magical aspect.
- Viewing vast fields of wisteria lit up at Ashikaga Flower Park
- Touring Ashikaga Gakko, the oldest school in Japan
- Tasting Japanese wines at the Coco Winery Harvest Festival
How to Get There
Ashikaga is easily accessible by train and bus from Tokyo.
From Tokyo, take a limited express train from Kita-Senju or Asakusa bound for Akagi, and get off at Ashikagashi Station.
The home temple of the Ashikaga
Ashikaga gave birth to a shogunate of the same name that dominated Japan 237 years from 1336 until 1573. Its leaders established strong relations with Korea, fostered new developments in the arts—including Noh drama, the tea ceremony, flower arrangement—and fostered Zen Buddhism.
Bannaji Temple was once the home of the Ashikaga clan's founder, Ashikaga Yoshiyasu (1127-1157), and still retains the style of a warrior's residence, boasting a moat, a wall, and a four-gated layout. The temple's spacious grounds include a bell tower, library and other buildings. There are cherry trees all over the grounds, and a gingko tree that reportedly has been around for six centuries.
The oldest school in the nation
The Ashikaga Gakko is the oldest school in Japan, founded in 1439 by a Kanto lord named Uesugi Noritsune, and was described by the missionary Francis Xavier in 1549 as the largest and most famous university in Japan. The school has taught an eclectic mix of subjects: Confucianism, Chinese medicine, divination and military studies. The site has more than 18,000 volumes of books as well as some of Japan's oldest historical documents.
The scenery alone is worth a visit. You can see why it has always been easy to study here in peace and quiet. The kitchens, living spaces and other facilities are also interesting. The Ashikaga Gakko is a short walk from Ashikaga Station.
Strawberries, soba, and wine
Tochigi is particularly known for its sweet, plump strawberries, and calls itself “The Strawberry Kingdom.” It produces more strawberries than anywhere else in Japan, and you can pick your own at one of the many strawberry farms in the area.
Another Ashikaga specialty is soba noodles. You can sample an assortment of soba according to the seasons. What makes these noodles unusual is that the flavors are not added into the soup or as toppings but rather blended directly into them during the kneading process.
The Coco Farm Winery. is in the north of the city. The winery uses Japanese grapes and wild yeast to produce wine. The high quality wines are served at international conferences and on international flights. The wine shop offers winery tours and tastings, while the cafe serves homemade wine and seasonal dishes.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.
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