I first came across a photo of this place when a friend posted it on Facebook a couple of years ago. Was this real or a photo montage? Surely such a place could not exist. It looked like it came out of a fairy tale. So I investigated. And considering we live in a digital age where information about anything can be obtained at the click of a button, there was remarkably little on this place. Only a few blog posts with vague directions. I mean vague in the sense that there was no official website, there was no address but the same repeated instructions about getting there from a train station. I made it my mission to get to this place and in one day travelled about 1,000 miles south to the island of Kyushu. Flowering time was only given as end of April to beginning of May so I arrived there on May 1 keeping my fingers crossed.
The following morning I arrived at the bus stop in Yahata near Kitakyushu as per the blogs and found two other couples looking as confused as I was so I felt things were looking up and that in any case, I would not be getting lost alone. After some coming and going, and attempting a conversation with some Japanese ladies also waiting at the stop it turned out that yes, this was the correct bus stop. We rode the bus and arrived at the garden about 30 minutes later.
Wow. And I mean wow. The photos speak for themselves. The perfume was incredible and the sound of the bees buzzing filled the air. It was magnificent and enchanting to walk under the tunnel, a true rainbow of colours. I sat happy and contented on a bench under a trellis of wisteria and a young woman joined me. We got chatting and she ended up interviewing me for the local paper. She was curious as to how a foreigner would know of this place when hardly any Japanese do. True, in fact, there were few people there. This is one of those places you have to see once in your life. So hurry before it gets too crowded!
Practical information on how to get there:
The blossom dates are indeed the last few days of April and beginning of May. Always bearing in mind nature can have a change of mind and come early or late. Go to Yahata train station, on the left as you come out of the station you will see a couple of bus stops with numbered buses, ignore those and go to the adjacent tiny bus stop with two schedules but no numbered buses. One of those schedules is the free bus shuttle for the onsen right by the garden. I do not know what the other schedule is for. Do not worry, everyone takes the shuttle to go to the garden. Just to be sure I had a photo ready to show the driver when he arrived so I’d know I was on the right bus!
I advise getting there a little earlier as the shuttle is small and once it is full you will have to wait another hour for the next one. The first bus is at 10.15 and they run more or less every hour. The garden itself is quite small and easily done in one hour so it is possible to make a half or full day trip from somewhere else. The garden opens at 9am so if you are driving or take a taxi from the station you will be able to enjoy it before the bus arrives.
Once you arrive at the onsen, head back to the road and turn left up the road and you will be in the garden within a few minutes. In the past the number 56 bus took you to the school a 15 minute walk from the garden. If the receptionists at my hotel who, bless them, spent several hours trying to find the bus information for me are correct, though the bus is still active, it does not go to the school anymore so the onsen shuttle or a taxi are your only options.