While it may seem like the Wisteria Tunnel in Kawachi Fujien Gardens in Kitakyushu City is a magical dreamland with no place in reality, the flower covered pathway is, in fact, very real and has become a major annual destination for locals and tourists alike.
Wisteria is one of Japan’s native plants and grows all over the island— it’s beloved for its dramatic vines that drip with colorful blooms every spring. The Wisteria Tunnel is a particularly lovely destination as its branches have been planted and trained to fall in an ombre pattern of varying degrees of pastels along its length.
Wisteria is called fuji in Japan (different from Mt. Fuji, to be clear). The garden is home to over 20 varieties that bloom in purple, lavender, white, pink, lilac and blue. In addition to the gorgeous colors, Wisteria also smells incredible so you’re in for a total sensory experience when you visit.
There is another major Wisteria destination in Japan called Ashikaga that brings in even larger crowds and has even more blooms than Kawachi. The Kawachi Gardens are a bit lesser known and locals are somewhat hesitant to advertise the garden for fear of its serenity and beauty getting overrun by visitors.
The best time to visit this fantastical wonderland is usually from late April to mid May, though the blooms are subject to weather variabilities. Peak time comes during the last week of April which has been dubbed the “Golden Week.” And while that may bring on the best blooms, it also brings on the biggest number of visitors and the tunnel will feel like a traffic jam.
If you happen upon the pathway in non-blooming times, you’ll be disappointed to find a snarl of twisting branches with nary a purple pod in sight.
You can get to the gardens in five hours from Tokyo by taking the Nozomi high speed train. Once you’re at the train station you can get on the number #56 bus and get off at Kawachi elementary school stop and walk the 10 minutes to the garden entrance. The cost is about $20 and the park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For many of us, an alleyway is a thing to hurry through, a shortcut to get from one destination to another and is not a space to be explored, considered or evaluated. It’s just this obliviousness that illustrator William Dolan explores in his alleyway series, bringing a heightened awareness and esteem to the otherwise overlooked urban element.
Dolan’s drawings take on an eerie, unreal quality with his heavy line work and intense bursts of marigold and navy skies. His alleys and street paths are all lit intensely by the sun or moon; he’s literally shedding light on these overlooked avenues. There’s also a modern nod to Matisse in his work in the way he handles form and perspective; while identifiable and realistic to a point, there’s also an element of fantasy that gives each drawing a whimsical edge. [h/t faithistorment.com]
For much of the year, Colombia’s Caño Cristales looks like any other river featuring dull green moss clinging to bedrock below the surface of the water. But for a fleeting few months out of the year, the waters take on vibrant shades of color as plant life below the surface burst to life in red, blue, yellow, orange and green. The unearthly display has earned it many nicknames including ‘liquid rainbow’ and ‘the river that ran away from paradise’.
Painted by plants
Don’t be mistaken, the strange blooms of color don’t come from algae or moss as some people might believe. The rainbow displays are created by an endemic plant called macarenia clavigera which resides under the water. But the plants are very fickle about the conditions they need to come into bloom. They only come to life between the wet and dry seasons when the water level is just right and they get enough sun.
In the wet season, the waters run too fast and deep for the blooms to get the right amount of light. In the dry season, the waters can dry up altogether and force the plant into hibernation. It’s for a few months running from September through November that they show their full beauty.
The many shades of the macarenia clavigera
While macarenia clavigera comes most commonly in shades of red – ranging from hot pink to maroon – you’ll find patches of it in bright green in shaded areas. Blue, yellow, and orange hues have also been spotted.
A remote Eden
Just east of the Andes, Caño Cristales is hidden in a remote and isolated area you can’t access by road. Adventure seekers can fly into the nearby town of La Macarena. Then take a short trip to the national park Serrania de la Macarena where the river is located.
For years, the area was closed off to tourists because of guerrilla warfare in the region as well as concerns about environmental damage. People have been known to walk right into the river stomping on the endemic plants while leaving behind litter after leaving the park. Today, visitors must enter the area with a guided tour. Tours are limited to 7 people per group with a max of 200 people per day.
A local treasure
Caño Cristales has been gaining in popularity among travelers lately but it’s been known to local residents for generations. Colombians regularly flock to the waters on holiday weekends. Best to avoid those dates if you can so that you get the full beauty of the place during your visit. Enjoy an unrushed walk along the lush green riverside with nothing but the sound of the bubbling waters running by.