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From Plantation to Garden, Adapting to Changes in the Times [Ashikaga Flower Resort]

Secret to Robustness
  • Proactive measures to build name recognition including use of advertisements and other means.
  • Creating new strategies to increase repeat visitors.
  • Pursuing uniqueness while making the most of nature.

Ashikaga Flower Park, located in Ashikaga City in the southern part of Tochigi Prefecture, is increasing its presence as a tourist destination. It welcomes over one million visitors annually and is the top botanical garden in Japan. The park's flower seasons are divided into eight, and the garden is maintained in a way to emphasize the characteristics of each season. Since 2002, the park has illuminated the garden during winter, and its popularity is increasing as the park has been listed in illumination rankings of private organizations and is certified as a scenic night view brand.

On its grounds covering an area of 92,000 m2, Ashikaga Flower Park cultivates over 350 wisteria vines, including a wisteria trellis of nearly 1,000 m2 designated by Tochigi Prefecture as a natural monument and four large wisteria vines over 145 years old. Strategies to attract visitors are being implemented such as adjusting park entry fees according to the condition of flower blooming in the garden.


President Keijiro Hayakawa of Ashikaga Flower Resort, which operates Ashikaga Flower Park, emphasizes, "We have adapted to changes in the times in order to pass down our business resources to later generations." Ashikaga Flower Park was previously known as Hayakawa Plantation, which was opened in Ashikaga City after WWII by Hayakawa's father. The park was moved to its current location in 1996 with the goal of increasing revenue during the bubble economy. Four large wisteria vines, the park's main attraction, were dug up and transported a distance of approximately 20 km.

While the number of annual visitors during its time as Hayakawa Plantation was less than 100,000 people, the park set a goal of increasing this to approximately 500,000 people after the relocation. But for the first three years the park struggled to grow as the number of visitors did not even reach 200,000 people. “We expected visitors as a result of the drama surrounding the transplant of large wisteria vines that was considered difficult, but this was a miscalculation,” recalls Hayakawa. So the park began placing inserts in newspapers and displaying posters at train and bus stations. While adjusting where these advertisements were conducted, the park worked intently to get its name out.

Ashikaga Flower Park continues to improve and change its image capitalizing on the sensibility of Hayakawa who says, "The flower park does not have a set format." A key point he says is "whether we can create a number of spots where visitors want to take their photograph."

Scenery Only Viewable Here

But no matter what steps are taken, during winter the featured blooming flowers become fewer. There is the option of growing flowers in a greenhouse, but this would not only increase costs, the sense of the seasons would also become lost. So when the park first opened, the decision was made initially to not charge an entry fee during the winter season and to focus on the restaurant and retail operations. Illumination offered as a service to nighttime visitors proved popular, so its scale was expanded fivefold the following year. Because visitors said that it was worth seeing even if they had to pay for it, the park began to build on the idea that illumination could generate business.

With the goal of offering "scenery only available here," the park displays an exhibition based on a theme of light, animals, and seasons. Eye-catching displays are made such as by recreating large wisterias with purple light decorations and by arranging pyramids with various colored lights. "Illumination that combines the three elements of theme, story, and message is probably unusual," says Hayakawa confidently. The park has also already confirmed that the nighttime illumination does not interfere with plant growth.

In FY2011 the park used over 1.5 million light bulbs for its illumination show, and this number has been growing each year to over 1.8 million in FY2012 and over 2.1 million in FY2013. Meanwhile, the show is limited to the period from late October to late January. "Because the air is clearer during this time than in other seasons and because of the influence from Christmas, winter is a time when people will want to see an illumination show. We are able to enhance appeal by limiting the period the light show is presented," says Hayakawa.

The illumination show presented during winter is being expanded in size every year.

The illumination show presented during winter is being expanded in size every year.

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Aiming to Attract Visitors by Involving Local Region

While possessing the wisteria "brand," Ashikaga Flower Park has not relied on it and has been diligent in devising new ideas such as its illumination show. Moving forward, "We want to collaborate with neighboring regions such as Sano City and Tochigi City to spread the message of the attractiveness of our area as we aim to create a synergistic effect in attracting visitors," says the park, which in the last three years has been actively getting its name out overseas including in Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia. An untiring spirit to do more is supporting the park's growth.

Company Data

President: Keijiro Hayakawa

Keijiro Hayakawa

Company name Ashikaga Flower Resort
President Keijiro Hayakawa
Industry Type Service
Address 906-13 Tanakacho, Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Phone 0284-71-4688

Printing day:April 8, 2014

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