Fuji Shibazakura Festival 2016
Before Japan, the idea of spending a whole day looking at flowers might not have been your first choice for a good time. But here hanami or ‘flower-viewing’ is somehow ridiculously fun. During cherry blossom, the big daddy of hanami events, everybody and everything has a more beautiful aura, and when it ends it feels like your favorite pet just died. Thankfully the next major flower event has already begun, involving majestic scenery, delicious local food and a pretty epic foot bath. The 9th annual Fuji Shibazakura Festival is here people – time to get your flower fix.
The Fuji Shibazakura Festival features more than 800,000 tiny pink, purple, white and blue moss phlox (shibazakura) flowers planted in swirling patterns to make a giant, fluffy flower carpet – with Mount Fuji as the iconic backdrop.
The scenery is so perfect you’ll feel as though you just tripped and fell into a watercolor painting.
Neat pathways wind through the flower fields spreading out over more than two hectares, a translucent lake in the middle reflects the image of Fuji upside down, while smaller, forested mountains form an emerald ring around the entire festival site. This year, the flowers were re-planted to replace flagging specimens so the period of full bloom – during and after Golden Week – is expected to be especially spectacular.
There are various means for gawping at the magnificent beauty of nature at the festival. The ‘Panorama Plaza’ is a raised viewing deck which overlooks the whole of the site towards Mount Fuji. Next door, the Sakura Cafe Fujiyama Sweets is a pop-up cafe which also has a viewing deck facing Fuji; here, you can try shibazakura confectionary created by the pastry chef at the nearby Highland Resort Hotel & Spa. The highlight though is definitely the ‘Panoramic Foot Bath’; you can soak your feet in a natural hot spring while gazing at one of the world’s most awesome-looking mountains….it’s a tough job.
It wouldn’t be a flower festival without a ton of food. The Mount Fuji Gourmet festival takes place at the same site and features several food stalls serving up local specialities like Yoshida udon, served with horsemeat, and Fujinomiya yakisoba. Flower-themed dishes such as shibazakura ramen are also on the menu. There’s mochi, manju and ice cream for dessert, shibazakura-flavored of course, and a large marquee to enjoy it all in.
Pick up the requisite shibazakura souvenirs in the dedicated shops around the edge of the festival site. It’s mostly food – curious cooks can surprise dinner guests with the pink shibazakura soba for example – but there’s also cute Fuji keyrings, soft toys and other memorabilia.
Understandably, it’s a hugely popular festival so it’s highly likely that you’ll have to dodge selfie sticks and play unintentional footsie in the footbath. Avoid the crowds by heading to the festival early in the morning or later in the evening if you can.
The best way to experience the Fuji Shibazakura Festival is to stay overnight and take time to enjoy some of the other sights in Kawaguchiko and the Fuji Five Lakes region. There’s FujiQ Highlands, a theme park at the base of Mount Fuji, the Fugaku cave in the mysterious Aokigahara forest, the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, onsen, bike riding, a cable car and of course the five lakes; Kawaguchiko, Motosuko, Shojiko, Yamanakako and Saiko.
Getting to the festival is half the fun. Fujikyuko Railway operate different train services along the Fujikyuko line from Otsuki station to Kawaguchiko, from where you can hop in a dedicated shuttle bus to the festival site (about three kilometers south of Motosuko). The recently launched Fujisan View Express train, designed by acclaimed industrial designer Eiji Mitooka, is one of them. The train’s elegant wooden interior has large windows for snapping pictures of Mount Fuji on the approach from Otsuki, as well as a restaurant car which offers a special sweets bento plan and serves drinks.
The Fuji Shibazakura Festival 2016 runs until May 29th, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Entrance for adults is 600 yen. Save yennies with a combination ticket including the return shuttle from Kawaguchiko and entrance to the festival for 2000 yen.