You may not know what shibazakura is, but you definitely want to see it.
Japan is an anthophile’s dream: chrysanthemums, camellias, wisteria and the mighty cherry blossom abound, and it seems that every region and city has a gorgeous formal garden landscaped to showcase the bloom of the moment. Yamanashi Prefecture is no exception. Not only is it within a hop, skip and a jump of both Tokyo and Mount Fuji, it is also home to Fuji Five Lakes and the magical Fuji Shibazakura Festival.
Moss phlox is a small groundcover native to the United States. Its Japanese name, shibazakura, roughly translates as lawn-cherry, and that’s the secret to its popularity in the archipelago: the low-growing shrub comes in a dozen or more shades of pink, and when it is in full bloom it creates vistas of pink blossoms that rival the splendor of the sakura.
An easy day trip from Tokyo, the Fuji Shibazakura Festival happens at Fuji Motosuko Resort, near the base of Mt Fuji (hence the name). With 800 000 plants packed into 2.4 hectares, the festival promises only the most spectacular views of a number of varietals of phlox subulata arranged around a small lake legendarily home to a tamed dragon, against the backdrop of Japan’s most famous landmark.
Please note: The admission prices change slightly. Between 18 April and 24 April, and between 11 May and 31 May, admission is R79.81 * for adults and R33.26 * for children. During the peak period, 25 April to 10 May, admission is R106.42 * for adults and R33.26 * for children.
Pro tip: Book a round-trip package that includes transport from Tokyo and a side trip to a tulip festival.
Should you ever get your fill of the flowers, there’s also a teapicking area, footbaths for your weary kicks, strategically placed so you can soak your soul in the view and your feet in the water at the same time, and a concurrent Mt Fuji Delicious Food Festival.
This food fiesta, aka Mt Fuji Gourmet, is definitely worth checking out: there will be local specialties and comfort foods aplenty. Think hearty pork stews, tempura soba, croquettes, dumplings, yakisoba and udon on the savoury side, and, on the sweet, mochi, taiyaki and anman. And if you ever wanted to feast upon a Fuji-shaped mochi or a phlox-themed baumkuchen, here’s your chance to seize upon one as a souvenir.
The area is in a highland region and can stil be chilly in April, so check the weather before you go and—because it’s a walking tour—be sure to wear suitable shoes. Pets and picnics aren’t allowed. As always, it’s a good idea to use public transport, and luckily we have a guide on getting from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko without breaking a sweat.