While cherry blossoms are often the first thing to spring to mind when talking about flowers in Japan, the archipelago actually has many other varieties of flora to enjoy. Every season brings about a fresh crop of Instagrammable plant life, and some of the most photogenic are the so-called “carpet” flowers. Here are five of the most popular and easily accessible flower festivals from Tokyo.
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Baby Blue Eyes at Hitachi Seaside Park (Ibaraki)
Every spring, the Baby Blue Eyes, or nemophila, creates a mesmerizing blanket of vivid blue flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park’s Miharashi no Oka Hill. The hill, which was created using surplus soil from construction projects, is located 58m above sea level and is the highest point in Hitachinaka city. With stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Kanto plains, the sky, sea, and carpeted hill seamlessly blend into three shades of blue.
The hill is actually just a small part the massive park that features many other gardens and fun activities like tandem cycling and rides. There is also no shortage of food trucks and other eating options, albeit slightly overpriced. In autumn, the park is famous for fiery red kochia, or summer cypress bushes, which are planted on the same hill.
Getting there: Take the JR Joban Line from Shinagawa Station or the Limited Express Hitachi-Tokiwa from Tokyo Station to Katsuta Station (1.5-2 hours). Then transfer to a local or shuttle bus that runs to the park (15 minutes). During peak seasons, special shuttle buses run between Tokyo Station and Hitachi Seaside Park. The journey time is around 2 hours.
The Fuji Shibazakura Festival (Yamanashi)
Season: April to May
Cost: 600 yen (check official website for latest info)
As the name suggests, the Fuji Shibazakura Festival combines Japan’s iconic peak with hundreds of thousands (the official website states around 800,000) of shibazakura to create a picturesque spring day out. Shibazakura is known in English as “moss phlox,” which makes it a species of phlox, a type of creeper plant which covers the ground like a layer of carpet. Despite the Japanese name, the flower is unrelated to cherry blossoms.
You can read more about the festival on a dedicated post here.
Getting there: The only direct way to the site from Tokyo is a highway bus from Shinjuku that operates during the festival period. It only runs twice a day in each direction, so make sure you plan carefully if taking this option. The travel time is around 2.5 hours one way. The other option is to take a train or bus to Kawaguchiko Station, and then transfer to Shibazakura Liner. This is a shuttle bus that runs only during the festival period, and it takes around 30 mins to reach its destination.
Shiofune Kannon Azalea Festival (Tokyo)
Shiofune Kannon Temple is a vast Buddhist temple located in the western Tokyo city of Ome. The planting of azaleas in this temple garden began in 1966, with first festival held the following year. On the terraced slopes surrounding the Gomado Hiroshokaku hall, 15 different varieties totaling approximately 17,000 azaleas bloom, creating a breathtakingly vibrant display. Within the azalea garden there are pathways provided for visitors to stroll and get up-close-and-personal to the flowers.
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station take the JR Chuo/Ome Line to Kabe Station. From there, transfer to a local or shuttle bus.
Kiyose Sunflower Festival (Tokyo)
Held in the peak of summer, the Kiyose Sunflower Festival features around 100,000 sunflowers in a vast field spanning around 24,000 sqm in the western suburbs of Tokyo. The sunflower fields are cultivated by local farmers and have become a public seasonal attraction due to their beauty.
The stunning contrast of vivid yellow flowers against the blue sky makes them extremely Instagrammable. But be warned: it can get extremely hot as there is no shelter from the blazing sun. There is also no shortage of bees and dust, so you should probably avoid wearing white. In addition to the sunflower fields, the festival also includes a photography contest, fresh produce, and a small selection of food stalls.
Getting there: From Ikebukuro Station, take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Kiyose Station (20 minutes). A free shuttle bus runs from the station to the venue during the festival period.
Kinchakuda Spider Lily Festival (Saitama)
The biggest spider lily festival in Japan, around 5 million of these red flowers bloom every year at Kinchakuda Manjushage Park in Saitama Prefecture’s Hidaka city. These flowers, called 彼岸花 [higanbana] in Japanese, means “flower of the autumn equinox,” and their blossoming signals the arrival of the season. Their striking red color and unique shape is said to resemble spider legs. The sight of thousands of spider lilies in bloom creates a stunning natural carpet of red, making it a popular photography spot.
While you can also see spider lilies around Tokyo, including Nogawa Park, this festival boasts the largest field in all of Japan.
Getting there: From Ikebukuro Station, take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Koma Station. From there, it is a 15 minute walk.
There are many other flower festivals in Tokyo and the surrounds, so this is by no means an exclusive list. But there’s just something soothing about carpet-style flowers to me, and these five are definitely among my favourites.