Declining Toyama Town Goes Viral with Vista of Red Tulips, Yellow Mustards, and Pink Cherry Blossoms

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors take in colorful spring flowers in Asahi, Toyama Prefecture, in April 2019.

TOYAMA — In the small shrinking town of Asahi, Toyama Prefecture, one man 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 over two weeks. Now, with fall here, bright red spider lilies cover the embankments.

Hisao Yamazaki, 81, the only farmer who grows tulips in Asahi, often felt heartbroken at the town’s decline. The population of Asahi, 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.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hisao Yamazaki stands in front of a field of sunflowers.

About 20 years ago, Yamazaki first planted tulip bulbs in a field near the banks of the river that runs through the town, so they would blossom at the same time as the cherry blossoms planted on top the bank. Then he planted mustard seeds in 2008. The following spring, the land was resplendent in pink, red and yellow.

The three floral colors, and the white from the snow-clad mountains of the Northern Japanese Alps behind, created a scene of beauty, went viral on social media as “Haru no Shijyuso” (spring quartet).

Besides spring flowers, Yamazaki also planted 30,000 spider lily bulbs along a 600-meter-long bank over three years so that visitors could enjoy flowers in fall as well. Now they are one of the town’s seasonal charms.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bright red spider lilies carpet an embankment in Asahi, Toyama Prefecture, on Oct. 2.

This year, Yamazaki grew sunflowers on a 1.5-hectare field using subsidies from the town. The sunflowers hit peak bloom in mid-September, and many came to visit and take pictures.

Atsushi Yoneda, from the town’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 smiling. “It’s very rewarding.”