One elderly couple in Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture turned their sadness into happiness not only for themselves, but for thousands of visitors, when they planted a stunning garden full of bright pink flowers called shibazakura–all for a heart-tugging reason that would bring a smile to any traveler’s face.
In Shintomi Town in Miyazaki Prefecture every spring, more than 7,000 tourists visit a private residence each year–not only because of the beauty of the carpet of flowers growing there, a species known as moss phlox, but because of what prompted it. The owners, Toshiyuki and Mrs Kuroki, married in 1956 and ran a dairy farm on their 3.3 square meter plot of land, tending to 60 cows and raising two children. They worked hard, knowing that they would someday travel around the country and see all the places they didn’t get to see when they were young and working every day.
When Mrs. Kuroki was 52 and had been married for 30 years, she suffered complications from diabetes, which caused her to lose her sight. Having always dreamed of the trip of a lifetime, the wife and mother were understandably devastated that she would not lay eyes on Tokyo, Osaka, and the many shrines and mountains they had planned to visit. She shut herself away in her home and stopped receiving visitors. Her husband couldn’t bear to see her like this, so he ultimately decided that he had to do something to prompt visitors and bring his grieving wife out of her shell.
That’s when he got the idea, after seeing a shibazakura flower in the garden.
Its scent was so beautiful and aromatic that he began dreaming of a whole garden full of these flowers. He knew his wife would be able to enjoy them without the sense of sight, and so would visitors–hopefully prompting his wife to begin living life as fully as she could.
So Mr. Kuroki embarked upon his labor of love, a project that wound up taking him two years.
He had to chop down a number of trees to create room for the garden. He then tended the seedlings, watching them grow from sprouts to a sea of gorgeous flowers surrounding the house. More than a decade later, people from neighboring towns, cities and countries fill the garden each spring, snapping pictures and admiring the scent that fills the air. And Yasuko Kuroki is finally out of her shell, walking arm and arm with her husband, enjoying the scene.
Now, the old sheds that once housed cows are a visitor’s center where tourists can learn about the story behind the flowers. It’s been over a decade since the first flowers were planted, and by now Mr. Kuroki’s ambitious project has become something of a sensation.
This story of love and happiness is evident to visitors when the see the big smile on Mrs. Kuroki’s face. Even if she never experiences her dream trip the way she wanted to, she knows she is loved no matter what, and that her husband’s love has brought love and happiness to others.
When it comes to uplifting travel destinations, this is one to remember.
If you go: Shintomi Town is located in Miyazaki Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The destination is served by Miyazaki Airport, which runs 19 round-trip flights per day from Tokyo on All Nippon and Japan Airways. Rail service from Miyazaki station is available to the Shintomi Town station; the ride takes about 1 hour and includes some walking. The train journey costs about 460 yen. Alternately, rent a car at the airport for the 45 minute drive to Shintomi.
The flowers are in full bloom in March and April.