Ashikaga Gakko, meaning Ashikaga School is well-known as the oldest academic institution. It is located in Ashikaga city, Tochigi prefecture, about 70 km north of Tokyo and about 70 km south of Nikko. So, Ashikaga would come handy if you plan your trip further to Nikko.
There are controversies about the origin of it, but it is said to have been established ca. 832 in the Heian period by Ono no Takamura and restored in 1432 by Uesugi Norizane, the lord of Ashikaga.
In the 1500s more than 3000 students came to study Confucianism, Chinese Medicine and Divination. The famous library contains more than 12000 volumes ( mostly in Chinese ) and some of Japan’s oldest historical documents,
Missionary Francisco Xavier reported in 1549 the Ashikaga School as the largest and most famous university of Japan.
After the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s the school was disestablished. After 1990 several wooden buildings including the former student living quarters, classrooms and the library were restored and today the school is under the direction of Ashikaga city board of education.
Now the Ashikaga Gakko has beautiful gardens and lovely, peaceful grounds to walk around.
Inside the school visitors can enjoy videos of the school’s history and challenge the School Kanji tests ( I did and found it pretty hard ) and join a program reading Analects of Confucius aloud.
In the Ashikaga Flower Park you will find 1000-square-meter gigantic wisteria trellises and a 80-meter-long wisteria tunnel.