Shibazakura Festival at Saitama's Hitsujiyama Park
Hitsujiyama Park is located at the base of Mt. Bukoh of Chichibu city in Saitama prefecture. The moss phlox were first planted around the year 2000, and as the flowers multiplied throughout the years, the site began to promote its floral beauty gradually. It is now one of the heaviest-traffic destinations for the Golden Week holidays.
Japanese possess a perennial passion for cherry blossoms and they do not mind at all going to the same park every year to admire the cheerful blooms and gather their families and friends around for a hanami. Sometimes the passion is cultural, since taking some time away from work to view the spring flowers is sewn in their tradition. The occasion also becomes a stolen moment to wind the hours with drinks, picnic food and merriment. Gazing down on the pink and white meadows of the moss phlox is equally relaxing.
The flower varieties are laid out strategically on the rolling fields like psychedelic patterns, as though curving along a flowing river. They also spread out on the surrounding hills where atop are perched benches for viewing. With the Hitsujiyama mountain standing as the background against the baby blue skies, the whole day becomes a breathtaking painting-like experience.
There are other leisure pursuits that can be enjoyed aside from flower viewing. Hitsujiyama literally means “sheep mountain”, and near the main entrance you can find Fureai Farm with mountain sheep lingering around. There is also a local market selling Chichibu products right next to the Shibazakura Hill, and food stalls selling organic vegetables, such as locally grown carrots and cucumbers, miso potato, handmade soba noodles, yakisoba and dango, and even shibazakura-themed drinks and desserts.
You can also stop by the Mt. Bukoh Museum to learn about the history of the mountain and surroundings, and the Yamato Art Museum to see the artist Shiko Munakata’s collections.
Unlike many Golden Week destinations in spring, where temples, shrines and intertwining streets can be congested with lines of busy visitors, sometimes hindering principal views, the vast and spread-out land of the Hitsujiyama Park feels less cramped, and allows you to really appreciate the park's beauty.
Getting to Hitsujiyama Park & Other Details
Transportation to the park from Tokyo is very easy. Starting at Ikebukuro station, you can take the Red Arrow Limited Express train direct to Yokoze station or Seibu Chichibu station (the terminus), about an 80-minute ride. The one-way fare is 1480 yen. There is also a Seibu S-Train departing along the Tokyu lines from Motomachi, Yokohama, and Jiyugaoka stations. For additional details see this PDF of the Seibu Ikebukuro Line trains & stations.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk from either the Yokoze or Seibu Chichibu stop to reach the park, passing by the countryside and a shrine.
There are also cost-saving passes if you plan to travel to other destinations along the way—the Seibu 1-Day Pass (1000 yen), Seibu 1-Day Pass + Nagatoro (1500 yen), and the Chichibu 2-Day Pass (2320 yen from Ikebukuro). Check the Seibu railway site for more information.
The park is open from – with an entrance fee of 300 yen.
Be sure to take a fully charged camera and a hat or umbrella when the sun can be quite glaring. The Shibazakura fields may not last forever, but the festival will surely engage you with that splendid memory of a spectrum of colors and scenery.