Forest bathing, otherwise known as shinrin-yoku, is a meditative practice that involves taking in a forest or natural setting using all five senses. The process is more than just meditative and ongoing scientific studies continue to be published on its health benefits. This ecotherapy has caused participants to experience decreases in heart rate, depression, fatigue, anxiety, stress, urinary adrenaline, and urinary dopamine. And, if forest bathing can cause these effects, imagine the healing benefits of walking through the living rainbow that is the wisteria tunnel.
The Wisteria Tunnels, located in the Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu, are tunnels made from wisteria featuring 150 plants and 20 different species. A member of the pea family, the wisteria is an ornamental vine with hanging flowers and winding branches. The flowers bloom in various shades of pastel colors and the vines can rise roughly 65 feet above the ground and 33 feet laterally by twining their stems around supports. The tunnels were formed by twining the vines around supports and, when the flowers bloom, you appear to be covered in a bright tunnel of flowers including blue, pink, purple, white, etc.
Although the specific type of wisteria within the Wisteria Tunnel is native to Japan, there are some similar species of the plant native to the United States as they can grow in various climates. The best time of year to see the blossoms in full bloom is between the months of April and May, with some slight differences based on the flower. For example, the pale red wisteria reaches full bloom typically around late April while the white wisteria will reach full bloom in early May.
The site contains two wisteria tunnels that intersect in a large dome, creating a bright and fantastical effect. The ‘Fuji Matsuri’ or ‘Wisteria Festival’ takes place in late April and early May, right around the same time as the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. Although visiting when the flowers are in full bloom will provide the best experience, the park is also popular in the fall as the fall leaves create some beautiful and colorful foliage on the grounds.
Another gorgeous wisteria tunnel located in Japan is the Ashikaga Flower Park, which is the only location in Japan with a Kibana Wisteria Tunnel visitors can walk beneath. The area is home to roughly 350 different wisteria trees which bloom in various shades of pink, purple, white, and yellow. The site is also home to a 150-year-old wisteria tree and more than 500 azalea bushes.