Finally I get to post about my Golden Week Vacation 2013 (late April to early May) in greater detail. You can see a review of the whole trip here.
I decided to start with one of my highlights which was the “shibazakura” at Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture.
And I’m sure after reading this post, you want to go there as well.
Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu
Hitsujiyama Park (羊山公園) literally means “Sheep Mountain Park”. I’m not sure what this is referring to, but there were a few sheep in the park indeed.
Access to Hitsujiyama Park
Hitsujiyama Park is located in Chichibu City (秩父市), Saitama Prefecture (map).
The nearest train stations are Seibu-Chichibu and Yokoze from where it takes about 20 mins on foot. You can also walk from JR Chichibu Station from where it might take slightly longer.
Shibazakura at Hitsujiyama Park
Shibazakura (芝桜) literally translates to “lawn cherry blossoms” because the cute flowers are stretching out like lawn on the ground. And with the lovely pink and white they kind of look like cherry blossoms.
In English they’re known as “moss phlox” or “pink moss”.
In Japan they can be found almost everywhere from mid April to early June. However, there are only very few HUGE parks with a colorful display like that. While a few shibazakura might look cute, a whole lot of them looks absolutely breathtaking.
In Hitsujiyama Park the flowers usually bloom from late April to early May. If you’re not sure when exactly to visit, check out the “blooming progress” so that you can catch them in full bloom.
In Hitsujiyama Park they haven’t just randomly planted the flowers on the so-called “Moss Hill” (芝桜の丘, shibazakura no oka), but actually thought about a nice design for all the tourists who visit every year.
Can you see the lovely white heart in the photo above?
Here you can see a large part of the layout. Usually not all the types of shibazakura bloom at the exact same time which is why there are always a few green-ish spots here and there, but it’s still extremely beautiful.
As it’s a well promoted park and very close to Tokyo, it can get VERY crowded during Golden Week (last few days of April until May 5 or 6) and on the weekends. If you can, avoid that time frame. As you can see in the photo above, I didn’t have a choice. I had to go when everybody else did.
Luckily the park is very spacious, so it’s no problem to relax and take some nice photos.
After all, there are about 400,000 flowers spread on approximately 17,600 square meters.
This is probably the most prominent photo spot in the park with Mt. Buko in the background.
The colors are really intense when the sunlight hits the flowers directly – so much that it almost hurts your eyes.
They had different types of “shibazakura”, luckily with explanation. The sign above says this tiny pink version is called “autumn rose”. What a nice name. But not very fitting for the season. *g*
How I liked Hitsujiyama Park
I’m a big fan of flower fields in general. I also love shibazakura. The park is quite breathtaking, especially if it’s your first time seeing a park like this.
I would recommend going during the week and outside of Golden Week when it’s less crowded. As the park is quite big, it didn’t feel so crowded and I had a great time. If you’re anything like me, you will spend at least 1-2 hours there. I stopped just to stand and stare every few meters and also took way too many photos. There are also some benches (you can kind of see them in the upper left corner in the photo above) where you can rest. That’s where I ate lunch.
During the pink moss blooming season there are a few food stands around the entrance. There are also several vending machines and toilets.
Within the park you’ll find a few other nice spots (sheep ranch, tennis courts …), but most visitors come for the shibazakura.
If you’re in Chichibu anyway, I’d say you could take a relaxing walk in the park. If you’re lucky enough to be there when the “pink moss” is blooming, it’s a must-visit.
There are other sights in Chichibu City that you can easily explore on the same day. I’ll write about these soon, so stay tuned.
If you’re really into shibazakura, there are other breathtaking “moss fields” in Japan, so check them out.
You could also walk from Chichibu Station which will take about 5-10 mins longer.