Hikawa Gorge is a natural formation at the confluence of the Nippara (日原川) and Tama Rivers (多摩川), easily accessible from Okutama Station on the Okutama Mukashi Michi (奥多摩むかしみち — Okutama Old Trail). The gorge lies just a few kilometers downstream of the Oguchi Dam which forms Lake Okutama, the source of the Tama River.
The gorge is a popular vacation spot throughout the summer, with picnicking along the banks, but the fall colors in late October and early November bring out the best in the scenery.
Hiking the Okutama Mukashi Michi is just a bit challenging, with some climbing and rocky paths that can turn slick in wet weather. We arrived following a late-season typhoon and found ourselves clambering over mud and rocks that had washed over the path where a tree had fallen down the slope. But the trail is well marked and for the most part well maintained, with many beautiful scenes along the way.
From Shinjuku, the Chuo Line leaves about twice per hour, with a change at Oume (青梅). There is a “Holiday Express” runs direct a couple of times a day. It saves making a transfer, but takes the same time of about 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Okutama Station.
Ashikaga Flower Park is a flower theme park established in 1997 in Ashikaga, Tochigi. The park is renowned for its hundreds of wisteria, with the most famous being the 150-year-old “Hazama no Fuji (迫間のフジ),” which spreads over more than 1,000 square meters. Other wisteria are formed into tunnels up to 80 meters long which guests can pass through, a half dome resembling an orchestra shell, and walls which serve as backdrops for floral tableaux.
The highlight of the year comes from mid-April through May with the blooming of the wisteria. The park remains open until 9 p.m. during the season and illuminates the wisteria in the evening to create a colorful fantasy in the dusk. The park can be very crowded at this season, particularly during the Golden Week holidays, and visitors should expect some waiting in line for parking spaces and admission.
To provide a beautiful and interesting experience throughout the year, Ashikaga Flower Park marks “Eight Floral Seasons” such as “Spring Flower Festival” and “Water Nymphs (Water Lilies)”. The basic details of the seasons are available at the park’s English page, but the full details are given in Japanese only.
Other types of flowers at the park include Christmas rose, tulips, crocus, azaleas, hydrangea, sage and pansies.
Admission and access
The park is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with longer hours for some events such as the wisteria illumination. The admission price varies with the season and the condition of the flowers. At the peak it is ¥1,700 for adults and ¥800 for children. Check the website for details. Ashikaga Flower Park is about a 13-minute walk from the Tomita station (100 minutes from Tokyo via the Keihin Tohoku and JR Ryomo lines). Additional access information is available on the park’s website.