Summer time calls for two things in Japan, beach trips and sunflower viewing. Out in the western part of Tochigi prefecture is the small town of Mashiko. It’s commonly known as a pottery making town (for mashiko-yaki, or mashiko ware). Which you can find various types of artistic pottery made by local artists.
Besides its use of pottery Mashiko town is also known for its flower viewing festivals. The Sunflower festival is held every year from August 11th to the 20th. The festival is free to attend, albeit, that getting to the festival is rather difficult. To reach Mashiko station without a car, you can take a direct train from Shimodate station or a direct bus from Utsunomiya. Both options cost about 1,500 yen. However, for 600 yen more you can take the Moka express train from Shimodate station. It’s a steam engine train that moves slowly compared to the regular train.
From Mashiko station, the flower fields are a 30-minute walk which isn’t ideal in Japan’s humid heat. There is an option to take a taxi for about 730 yen or you can rent a bike at the station for around 400 yen. If you decide to walk or bike there are helpful signs along the road to make sure you’re going the right way.
Once at the fields you are instantly greeted with the beautiful view of bright yellow sunflowers. The fields present themselves as a maze, which you can walk through to get a closer look at the various types of sunflowers. There are three varieties of sunflowers planted. The standard yellow flowers take most of the space. Then there are green, and red varieties of sunflowers. Compared to most other festivals in Japan, Mashiko offers an up-close experience with the flowers. As you walk through the mazes you can take pictures, touch the flowers, and even pick them to take some home with you. If you pick them, just be careful of getting stung by a bee.
The festival is rather small compared to typical festivals elsewhere in Japan. There’s a small farmers market where you can buy Mashiko sunflower shirts, some seasonal vegetables and kakigori (shaved ice). In the back of the parking is a tall tower that you can walk up to get a better view of the entire festival.
Although the festival is a little bit of a hassle to get to, I would say it’s worth it. Especially on such warm, sunny days; why not spend some time frolicking through a field of flowers?