TOYAMA, Japan >> In the small, declining town of Asahi, one man for two decades has been planting vistas of flowers, hoping to attract visitors.
This spring, when cherry blossoms, tulips and mustard plants all bloomed at once, the town of about 10,000 received some 90,000 visitors for more than two weeks. Now, with fall here, bright red spider lilies cover an embankment.
Hisao Yamazaki, 81, the only farmer who grows tulips in Asahi, often felt heartbroken at the town’s decline. The population of the town where he was born and raised fell from a peak of nearly 25,000 to less than 16,000 in 2000. So he decided to create a landscape that could only be enjoyed in Asahi, hoping it would “bring as much life as possible back to the town.”
About 20 years ago, Yamazaki planted tulip bulbs for the first time in a field near the banks of a river that runs through the town, so they would bloom simultaneously with the cherry blossoms planted above the bank. Then in 2008 he planted mustard seeds. The following spring, the land was resplendent in pink, red and yellow.
The three floral colors and the whiteness of the snow-clad Northern Japanese Alps in the background created a scene of beauty and went viral on social media as “haru no shijyuso” (“spring quartet”).
To expand his floral displays, three years ago Yamazaki planted 30,000 spider lily bulbs along a bank more than a third of a mile long, so that visitors could enjoy flowers in the fall as well. Now they are among the town’s seasonal charms.
This year, he grew sunflowers on a 3.7-acre field using subsidies from the town. The sunflowers hit peak bloom in mid-September, and many visitors arrived to snap pictures.
Atsushi Yoneda, a staffer from Asahi’s tourism association, said he was grateful to Yamazaki for his efforts to revive the town. New interest in Asahi “is all thanks to Yamazaki’s passion. We cannot thank him enough,” he said.
“I want the place where I was born and grew up to be as beautiful as possible,” said Yamazaki. “It’s very rewarding.”