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May 2023

Cultural Article

Japanese Wisteria

By Suzannah Nevas

While Japan is very famous for its iconic spring cherry blossoms, and even the preceding plum blossoms, a lesser known member of the Japanese floral pantheon is Wisteria. These majestic, fragrant, cascading flowers can come in yellow, white and pink varieties but are most widely seen in a pale purple hue. 

Wisteria is a flowering deciduous climber in the pea family, and is often seen trained over arbors, pergolas and various other support structures. There are species of wisteria endemic to many countries, but a fun fact is that Japanese wisteria climbs clockwise while American and Chinese wisteria both climb counter-clockwise.

Wisteria, or fuji, in Japanese, is thought to be a symbol of good luck and longevity, and with good reason–these trees can live to be hundreds of years old. There’s even a fuji in Kyoto prefecture’s Fukuchiyama, estimated to be 1200 years old. 

Sainokami no Fuji in Kyoto

(才ノ神の藤 is by sklfh464)

Wisteria has a long and rich history in Japan: some of the first fabrics ever made in the country were created from wisteria bark fibers. Centuries later, this traditional fabric, fuji-fu, is still being woven by craft textile artisans in Japan today. Unfortunately, this traditional craft is becoming quite rare, and in modern society most people enjoy the plants themselves. 

Fuji-fu from bark to cloth

(Photo Credit: Another Kyoto)

Wisteria parks in Japan can be enjoyed in nearly every season- their green foliage creates nice shade in the summer, and their dangling bean-pods (though not edible) are quite pretty in the fall. However, Wisteria really shines in the late spring when its grape-like bunches of flowers bloom into a canopy of color and perfume. 

Bloom times can vary from mid-April to mid-May, depending on location, but I associate these stunning blossoms with early May because I first encountered them among a backdrop of the fish kites (koinobori) flown for children’s day (May 5).

A picture of the author viewing the wisteria flowers in Japan

If I’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to see some wisteria in Japan, there are many places you can do so! Here is a list of the Top 8 places to see wisteria in Japan, compiled by the Japanese travel web magazine/media website,

  1. Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden, Fukuoka Prefecture 

  2. Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi Prefecture 

  3. Mandaraji Temple, Aichi Prefecture 

  4. Byakugou-ji Temple, Hyogo Prefecture

  5. Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Tokyo

  6. Tennogawa Park, Aichi Prefecture

  7. Shirai Omachi Fuji Park, Hyogo Prefecture

  8. Shindachijuku Wisteria Garden, Osaka Prefecture

Arguably the most famous place to see Japanese wisteria is Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture. The 94,000 square meters park has over 350 wisteria trees, including one ancient tree that is over 160 years old. Tourists flock to the park in May, and a special treat offered by the park is a night illumination.

If you are visiting Japan during April or May, I highly recommend checking the flower forecast as you plan your trip: you don’t want to miss these flowers, and there might be a viewing location closer than you think! 


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