We travel to Kawachi Fuji Garden from the Yahata Train Station as we arrive from the nearby Oita area where we stayed the previous night while visiting the 8 Hells of Beppu (an attraction not to miss in this area). It’s around 8am when we arrive and we first stuff what bags we can into the leftover lockers at Yahata station (Medium: 500 Yen, Large: 700 Yen). There is only a handful here and we find just one medium sized locker not taken meaning I had to lug around a roll-on cabin baggage, and laptop bag, for the day. So we then continue to queue for the bus as we travel to Kawachi Fuji Garden (local bus no. 56) for the Wisteria Tunnel. The bus stop is found just outside the station and is impossible to miss. For travel to Kawachi Fuji Garden there is also a second bus option with a free shuttle service to the nearby Ajisai-no-yu onsen. It is possible to ride without visiting the onsen but we opt to be more honest and go with the local bus. When arrive however at the peak of the Wisteria Tunnel Bloom (beginning of May), on Children’s Day, during Golden week, and outside it is picnic weather. So bring these together and we don’t get far, fast. After around 10 minutes through town the bus reaches the road to travel to Kawachi Fuji Garden, and the Wisteria Tunnel, where we find a seemingly endless tailback of traffic, which goes nowhere for half an hour. We are forced to abandon the bus and go by foot. There is of course the option of local taxis for travel to Kawachi Fuji Garden, which really isn’t too expensive, but this won’t beat the tailbacks and traffic. On the return journey we do take a taxi (around 2,500 yen to Yamata Train Station), as the queues for buses looked unbearable.
In short, the Kawachi Fuji Garden and Wisteria Tunnel can be extremely hard to reach during peak periods. So we start walking from the bottom of the hill and continue to follow a straight road uphill past quaint villages and nice enough surroundings. If it weren’t for the luggage I could really have enjoyed it. After twenty minutes clambering up the steep road, with the luggage, we arrive to fantastic views over lakes, reservoirs, leafy green hills and yellow bamboo forests. At this point we find a sign signalling a further 2.5 km ahead to the gardens. I almost want to give up here, but force myself to push. After what feels like 2.5 km further, we find another sign post pointing 2 km ahead to the gardens. I’m not very good when it comes to walking. The stationary traffic watch on in amusement as some foreign chump, with cabin baggage (me), sweats and staggers up the hillside.
Only once a year these flowers will bloom and it is at the beginning of May. Prices will also change depending on the stage of bloom and, given we arrive at the peak of this, and on the busiest day, we pay the highest possible fee of 1000 Yen to see them. The Wisteria Tunnel is the type of place you’d find on Mashable or Distractify sharing “15 awesome tunnels you never knew existed”. But now it seems everyone knows the exist and it would appear that half of Asia has turned up to snap their latest profile pic for Facebook, or Mixi, or whatever they use. I won’t deny that the Wisteria Tunnel is one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. If it were in my backyard I’d probably skip through it daily, feeling fantastic. But here I am a little bit miserable. I just walked 6 km upwards with luggage and am now forced to squash past crowds in a tunnel, while being pushed along by a continuous stream of tourists. On the plus side, Fanfan loved it, and I get a load of husband points.
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