In the northern part of Tochigi Prefecture lies the quiet town of Maeta in Otawara city. At first glance it doesn't seem much to the naked eye. Long stretches of road, rice fields, and the occasional convenience stores at the crossroads; the usual markers of a rural Japanese town. But if you come during the warmest time of the year you'll be surprised to find the beautiful Hydrangeas blooming in the mountains.
The Ajisai Matsuri (Hydrangea Festival) is held annually from mid June until early July in Otawara. About 6,000 hydrangea flowers bloom, attracting hundreds of visitors during this season. Here visitors can come and enjoy a nice walk through the Kurobane Castle grounds to see the beauty of the flower garden. Although this is a relatively isolated part of Tochigi, during this time of the year Otawara receives many visitors from Tochigi and the surrounding areas.
Walking through the garden feels somewhat like a fairytale. The way the castle is built and the flowers bloom, the light is able to hit the flowers just right which allows for some amazing photo opportunities. A tower overlooks the middle of the park. At the very top you can get a nice view of Otawara and its surrounding areas. The castle grounds also has a rich history behind it. During the Edo period a famous poet, Matsuo Basho, stayed a long time at Kurobane castle before departing to the Tohoku region. Although information is entirely in Japanese, visitors can go to the museum and learn a little about Matsuo's life. In the flower grounds visitors can also enjoy various performances and shows hosted by people from the local area. You're also able to visit the yatai stands (food stands) for some light refreshments, and even buy some souvenirs to take home.