Chichibu Shibazakura Festival
This Spring, Walk The Pink Carpet Like A Lady
The hills are alive with the view of shibazakura. This spring, head to Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu for an alternative, yet equally mesmerizing hanami experience.
The weather is at last warming up, flowers are blooming and yes, we are finally and officially ready to welcome spring! This for many means taking out the tarps, the blue sheets, packing obentos and saving a few spots under the stunning pink canopies that this ephemeral season creates: the full-bloom sakura across Japan.
But did you know that there is an alternative way to enjoy sakura that is equally pretty in sight and worth an entire dedicated feed on your Instagram account? Welcome to the world of shibazakura, the pink, white and purple flower carpets that central Japan takes pride in seeing annually from mid April through early May.
Shibazakura, also known as moss phlox, is a type of flower that covers the ground and, with petals resembling cherry blossom flowers, the plant wins the honorable title of “sakura lawn.” In other words, instead of growing on trees like the rest of the pretty pinks, it covers your way, making you walk like a true lady on an endless floral carpet.
[Shibazakura] covers your way, making you walk like a true lady on an endless floral carpet.
One of the most prominent venues to view these stunning flowers is the Hitsujiyama Park in Saitama’s green-rich Chichibu area. In conjunction with Chichibu’s stunning landscape as a backdrop, the park presents a gorgeous spring floral paradise, perfectly fit for a day out with the kids — and your camera.
A hugely popular annual event, the Chichibu Shibazakura Festival features some 400,000 fully bloomed moss phlox arranged in various shapes and swirls that stretch over four acres of the Shibazakura Hill, creating a scene right out of a painting.
The festival invites you to take a stroll around the shibazakura fields blooming in all colorful spring colors, or sit back and relax on the benches to enjoy the majestic Mount Buko landscape backdrop encompassing the park. Apart from shibazakura, the park is also famous for its tulips, plums and cherry blossom trees scattered all over the park to fulfil all your flower-viewing fantasies in a single experience.
Hitsujiyama Park also has animal ranches, tennis courts and playgrounds, so visiting with kids is more than welcome — they can stay well occupied while the parents savor the view.
The festival also hosts a foodie’s heaven market, where you can find everything from locally-grown carrots and cucumbers to an award-winning miso potato and handmade soba noodles. Of course, classic Japanese mouthwatering snack foods, such as yakisoba and dango, will be up for grabs, too. And if you’re lucky (and manage to beat the crowds), you might even get a chance to try shibazakura-inspired drinks and desserts.
And while the Shibazakura Festival should be the main trigger for your visit to Chichibu, get ready to explore and experience, because this city doesn’t keep you bored. A popular setting for Japanese animations, namely The Flower We Saw That Day and The Anthem of the Heart, a host of the soon to open onsen-themed park Matsuri no Yu (from April 24) located just a 15-min walk from Hitsujiyama Park, and known for its rich nature and simple agricultural lifestyle, the city is perfect for those who are looking for a weekend getaway.
Tips for attending the Chichibu Shibazakura Festival:
- Get there as early as you can for optimal flower viewing with less crowds
- Make sure to bring sun protection because there aren’t a lot of shady spots
- Bring enough cash as there are no ATMs at the venue
- It’s quite a walk from the station to the park. There’s a dedicated shuttle bus if you don’t want to hoof it on foot, but if you’re up for the challenge – get those sneakers on!
- Don’t forget your camera and a few SD cards!
Chichibu Shibazakura Festival 2018
Address: 6360 Omiya, Chichibu, Saitama prefecture
Access: Seibu-chichibu station (About 1.5 hours from Ikebukuro on the Seibu Ikebukuro – Seibu Chichibu line). For a pleasant, fast and inexpensive ride, take the Red Arrow Limited Express, a special limited express connecting Ikebukuro and Seibu Chichibu for ¥700 for a one-way ticket. Trains run hourly and the journey will take around 70 minutes.
Dates: April 13 – Sunday, May 6, 2018
Visiting time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Seibu Tourist Information Center Ikebukuro
Located at Ikebukuro station’s East exit, here you can purchase special discount tickets and limited express tickets for destinations along the Seibu Line, including Chichibu, as well as inquire about other travel recommendations in Saitama and along the Seibu lines. Trilingual (English, Chinese and Japanese) information and staff available. A Seibu 1Day Pass (¥1,000), usable for all Seibu lines (except Tamagawa line) is on sale for foreign customers, as well as tickets for the Red Arrow Limited Express. For more information, see here.
Business hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (For ticket purchases, from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Find your adventure from Tokyo to Saitama with Seibu Railway.