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Japan is a very well organised and efficient city, BUT due to language barriers and a complicated network of privatised railways, it can sometimes be difficult to work out how to get to destinations of interest. Today, I thought I would share with you how I visited Ashikaga Flower Park from Ueno Station in Tokyo.
Why Ueno Station?
Tokyo is BIG! Before you book your Tokyo accommodation, it’s a good idea to work out exactly what you intend to see/do and how to get to the places you’re planning to visit. My last trip to Tokyo was aimed primarily at seeing various spring blooms – the wisteria at Ashikaga Flower Park, the nemophila at Hitachi Seaside Park, and the azalea at Nezu Shrine (which I actually never ended up seeing as there were plenty of azalea at Ashikaga anyway). All of these are fairly easily accessible from Ueno Station. On top of that, on my previous visits to Tokyo, I’d stayed at Asakusa, Tokyo Station, and Shinjuku twice. Personally, I think it’s nice to mix it up a little.
Hint: For ease of transfer from the airport into Tokyo, my top three picks of where to stay would be Shinjuky, Tokyo Station, or Ueno.
Where to stay?
Once you’ve decided which station you’d like to be based around, I suggest finding a hotel as close to that station as possible. This is because taxis in Japan are super expensive, so your travels will be based pretty much around the station. On top of that, you’ll have the convenience of being able to find anything you need at the train station, from ATMs (cash is still king in Japan, you’re going to need it!) to incredible food halls and unique souvenir shops. One thing I loved is that Ueno is home to Tokyo’s Zoo. This means that there’s a strong emphasis on super cute panda products at Ueno Station, from bread to donuts, clothing and soft toys, crockery, stationery, and more!
I chose to stay at APA Hotel Keisei Ueno Ekimae, and the location couldn’t have been better. From Narita Airport, just take the Keisei Skyliner straight to the Keisei Ueno Station. A return ticket costs just ￥4380 if purchased online here. Don’t forget to exchange your online coupon for the actual ticket at the Skyliner and Keisei Info Center or the Skyliner Ticket Counter at the airport.
Hint: Remember how I said there are heaps of private railways? They’re all separate with different ticketing systems and stations. Note that the Keisei Ueno Station is different from the JR Ueno Station. Ditto with the ticket counters.
Here’s the best part – the APA Hotel is just a little to the right of the Ikenohata exit of the Keisei Ueno Station. Like 2-3 minutes walk, tops. If you see the Family Mart and walk past it to the small side street at the back of the station, you’re on the right track. If you take the main exit to the big main road Chuo-dori, turn yourself around 180 degrees.
Hint: Ekimae means “in front of station”. So any hotel that has Ekimae in its name is well situated for train travel.
Now that you’ve had a good night’s sleep…
How do I get to Ashikaga Flower Park?
You’ll need to take the JR Utsunomiya Line from Ueno to Oyama, where you’ll change to the JR Ryomo Line from Oyama to Ashikaga Flower Park (AFP). The total fare is ￥1980. You don’t need a reservation, just hop right onto the train.
Hint: Get a rechargeable Suica card. It’s so much easier for train travel, and you can also use it on buses and to buy food. In fact, there’s a discounted price at the train station 7-11 stores if you pay with a Suica card. They can also be used all over the country. AND you can keep using the same card for 10 years!
Here are my suggested train times:
5.10-6.25am Ueno to Oyama and 6.30-7.06am Oyama to AFP
5.32-6.47am Ueno to Oyama and 6.55-7.37am Oyama to AFP
5.46-7.01am Ueno to Oyama and 7.18-7.52am Oyama to AFP
At AFP Station, you can either hop on a shuttle bus, or just walk 3 minutes to the flower park. It’s super easy, just follow the crowds.
Why do I have to get up so early?
Here’s the thing. Japanese people wake up early, they love their flower festivals, the attractions open early, and they generally do take quite some time and effort to get to. In this case, 2 hours from Ueno Station.
I arrived at the flower park not long after 7am and there were already a fair few people there! Yet still I found it manageable at that hour. The crowds definitely got worse towards late morning and early afternoon.
But I’m really not a morning person!
If you really can’t bear to wake up at 4.30-5am, consider arriving in the late afternoon and staying for the seasonal evening illuminations. The wisteria are illuminated from about 5.30-9pm.
So when is the best time to see the wisteria?
The wisteria festival runs from mid April to mid May each year. The dates for 2020 are 11 April to 20 May. I went in the first few days of May 2019, and the timing was perfect for the purple wisteria being in full bloom.
Hint: Try and avoid Golden Week and weekends.
How much is admission?
The cost is variable depending on the time of year, time of day and the condition of the flowers. During the wisteria festival, admission ranges from ￥900-1800 for an adult during the day (￥500-900 for children) or ￥600-1500 for a night pass. However, I’m not sure what time you can purchase the night pass from.
What are the admission times?
7am-9pm during the wisteria festival.
9am-6pm all other times except for winter.
10am-5pm from end of November to February.
How long will I need to spend there?
That depends on how much you enjoy flowers, how many photographs you want to take, whether you intend to try some of the wisteria inspired snacks, and whether you’d like to purchase any souvenirs at the end. I’m not usually that into flowers, but I am fussy about taking photos without people in them, and I also allowed both snack and shopping time. All up, 4 hours for me.
Any must eats?
Be sure to try the wisteria soft serve ice-cream, and the wisteria popsicle. I think they were both around ￥500-600. The flavour is subtle but aromatic and enjoyable. If I were to choose one only, I’d go the soft serve for flavour and texture. But the popsicle is just so pretty! Heck, just get them both…
Where to next?
If you’d like to see more azalea, consider going to Tsutsujigaoka Park in Tatebayashi on the way back to Tokyo.
However, if like me you think that 4 hours surrounded by flowers is quite enough, consider stopping at Ikebukuro on the way. For this, you’ll need to take the JR Ryomo Line from AFP to Oyama, change to the JR Utsunomiya Line from Oyama to Omiya, and finally take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Oyama to Ikebukuro.
These times should work quite nicely:
12.49-1.23pm AFP to Oyama, 1.34-2.22pm Oyama to Omiya, 2.27-2.52pm Omiya to Ikebukuro
1.49-2.23pm AFP to Oyama, 2.33-3.21pm Oyama to Omiya, 3.27-3.53pm Omiya to Ikebukuro
2.49-3.23pm AFP to Oyama, 3.32-3.50pm Oyama to Omiya, 4-4.35pm Omiya to Ikeubukuro
What is there to do at Ikebukuro?
Sunshine City is a shopping mall where you’ll find Sanrio, Pokemon, Snoopy, Rilakkuma and Studio Ghibli stores. There’s also a Moomin Stand and a Pokemon Cafe. It’s about 600m east and less than 10 minutes walk from Ikebukuro Station. Shops open 10am-8pm.
Sky Circus is an observatory with a difference! Apart from offering panoramic views over Tokyo, there are also a heap of fun virtual reality style activities, light installations and a hall of mirrors! Open 10am-10pm daily (last tickets 9pm). Admission ranges from ￥300 for preschoolers to ￥1200 for adults.
Tokyu Hands is quite easily my favourite one stop shop in Japan. I especially love the science section where you can even purchase beakers, burettes, pipettes and test tubes in all shapes and sizes! Open 10am-9pm daily. It’s right next to Sunshine City and makes for a good stop on your walk back to Ikebukuro Station.
Milky Way Cafe is famous for their decadent ice-cream sundaes. Open 11am-10pm daily. It’s straight down the same street as Tokyu Hands on the way to Ikebukuro Station, on the 2nd floor of the Fujiki Building, 1-12-8 Higashi-Ikebukuro.
Kit Kat Chocolatory is a good place to stock up on souvenirs to bring home. Open 11am-9pm daily except Sundays when it’s open 10am-8pm. It’s right by the Seibu exit of Ikebukuro Station, in the Seibu Department Store, 1-28-1 Minami-Ikebukuro.
How do I get back from Ikebukuro?
Ueno is less than 20 minutes from Ikebukuro on the JR Yamanote Line (Outer Loop), and there’s a train roughly every 3-4 minutes.
Have you been to Ashikaga Flower Park? Which do you prefer, the purple or white wisteria? What other flower festivals would you recommend?
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Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels
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