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Day trips from Tokyo: Pink paradise at Fuji Shibazakura Festival

Day trips from Tokyo: Pink paradise at Fuji Shibazakura Festival

Following a long and chilly winter, the enchanting spectacle of flowers in bloom signals the onset of spring (春 haru), marked the gradual warming of the weather and the revival of colours across the landscape. While Japan is renowned for its cherry blossoms (桜 sakura), drawing millions of visitors globally who come to admire their fleeting beauty, there are a myriad of other vibrant spring blossoms awaiting your visit.

 

The perfect day trip from Tokyo. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Many flower festivals and flower parks are just a short trip away from Tokyo, so why not add one to your next holiday? In this article, we’ll check out the vivid pink shibazakura (芝桜 moss phlox) at the Fuji Shibazakura Festival (富士芝桜まつり), which boasts a stunning backdrop of Mount Fuji (富士山 Fuji-san), and is a perfect day trip for those visiting Tokyo in late April!

 

Different types of shibazakura. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Have you heard of moss phlox? Known locally as shibazakura in Japan, it is a type of groundcover that densely blankets the ground in little flowers, which are usually a vibrant shade of pink, magenta, or white. Despite its name, it is not a type of sakura, but is so named because its pink colour is reminiscent of sakura growing on the ground (“shiba” means “lawn”).

 

Held annually from mid-April to late May, the Fuji Shibazakura Festival is held at Lake Motosu (本栖湖 Motosuko), a 40-minute bus ride from Kawaguchiko Station (河口湖駅).

 

Scenic journey en-route from Kawaguchiko

View from the bus to Kawaguchiko. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

There are two main ways to get from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko: by bus or by train. I was staying at Ikebukuro, so I opted to take the direct bus from Ikebukuro to Kawaguchiko, which departed at 7:10 and took approximately 2 hours. Aside from Ikebukuro, there are many direct bus services to Kawaguchiko from other stations such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, and more.

 

It was a beautiful day with clear skies, and my seat right at the front of the bus let me enjoy amazing views of Mount Fuji along the way. Tip: try to get a seat on the left side while on the way to Kawaguchiko for views of Mount Fuji! My seat was assigned and on the right side, but since I was in the front row, I still got to enjoy a fantastic view. 

 

Gorgeous Mount Fuji looming behind Kawaguchiko Station. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

I arrived at Kawaguchiko Station shortly after 09:00, just enough time to buy tickets to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival and catch the 09:35 bus. Take some time to enjoy the surroundings, the view of Mount Fuji standing majestically behind the station on a clear day is a sight to behold.

 

Tickets to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

When buying tickets for the bus, you can usually purchase them as a set which includes 2-way bus rides between Kawaguchiko Station and the festival site, as well as the entrance fee to the festival. Buses cannot be reserved, and operate on a first-come-first-served basis.

 

Lake Motosu and Mount Fuji. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

After a 40-minute bus ride, I reached Lake Motosu at around 10:10. The festival site is just a short 5-minute walk from the bus stop, and along the walk you can enjoy views of the lake and build up your anticipation as the patches of pink start to come into view.

 

Pretty pink paradise at Fuji Shibazakura Festival

Flowers in full bloom. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

The Fuji Shibazakura Festival boasts over 500,000 shibazakura flowers of 7 varieties, which cover the festival grounds in vibrant shades of rose pink, magenta, white, and purple, creating an amazing scene that rivals the splendour of sakura. This was my third time to the festival after having been here in 2014 and 2016, but it was my first time being blessed with both a clear view of Mount Fuji and the flowers in full bloom, densely covering the ground.

 

Row a boat in a sea of pink. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

With the rise of social media in recent years, the festival site has set up a variety of photo spots, with one of the more popular ones being a canoe that makes it look like you’re paddling in a pretty sea of pink.

 

Welcome to my backyard. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Another popular photo spot was this bright “Yellow Door of Happiness”, which provided a striking contrast with the vivid magenta shibazakura and clear blue skies. The queues for the photo spots were long but orderly, and everyone was very kind in taking photos for the group in front of them.

 

Mini Mount Fuji in 2023 (top) and 2014 (bottom). (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Aside from the gorgeous flowers, part of the allure and popularity of the Fuji Shibazakua Festival is its proximity to Mount Fuji. As a tribute, different coloured shibazakura are used to decorate a little mound resembling the shape of Mount Fuji. When I first visited in 2014, I got to see a magenta Mount Fuji, and in 2023, it was a lavender Mount Fuji.

 

View from the observation deck. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Another popular photo spot is the observation deck. Though just about two storeys high, here you can get an elevated view of the grounds together with Mount Fuji in the background, if the weather is clear.

 

Fuji Shibazakura Festival (富士芝桜まつり)
Festival period (for 2024): 13 April to 26 May 2024
Address: 212 Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru, Yamanashi 401-0337
Access: 40-minute bus ride from Kawaguchiko Station (河口湖駅)
Nearest station: Kawaguchiko Station (河口湖駅)
Nearest bus stop: Motosu-iriguchi Bus Stop (本栖入口)

 

Peter Rabbit English Garden

Any fans of Peter Rabbit? (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

When you were a child, did you read the book series “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”? If you did, you’ll be glad to know that the Peter Rabbit English Garden opened at Lake Motosu in 2022, and is one of the largest English-style gardens in the Kanto Region. You’ll find lots of Peter Rabbit characters amongst the plants in the garden, and there’s also a café, eateries, and a gift shop. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I hopped in the café for a bite to eat.

 

View from the café’s terrace seats. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

The café has a cute wooden interior with high ceilings and cheerful décor, but I recommend sitting outside for the view. Tada! My outdoor terrace seat faced Mount Fuji, with the blooming shibazakura fields stretching out in front of me.

 

Brunch with a view. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

It was hard to pick what to eat since everything looked good, but I settled for a sandwich, iced coffee, and a cream puff, as I still wanted to try another local specialty later in the day. 

 

Grab a souvenir before heading back. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

I quickly finished up my meal and headed to the gift store to pick out some souvenirs. Other than adorable Peter Rabbit-themed goodies like cookies, confectionery, trinkets, and home décor, there were also sakura and shibazakura themed items to commemorate your trip.

 

More views of Mount Fuji

Views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

I hopped on the bus back to Kawaguchiko Station, but the day trip doesn’t end here. It was such a beautiful day, so I took the Red Line Sightseeing Bus to Oishi Park (大石公園 Ōishi Kōen) on the other side of Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖 Kawaguchiko). 

 

Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy views of Mount Fuji, as its peak is still covered in white snow, and the cool temperatures reduce the chances of cloudy days when compared to summer. With fantastic weather, every turn provided great opportunities to snap a shot of Mount Fuji with Lake Kawaguchi, be it from the bus, or from the roadside.

 

Rapeseed blossoms with Mount Fuji. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

A 30-minute bus ride from Kawaguchiko Station, Oishi Park is located on the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, and offers free admission, making it a popular spot for visitors. You can enjoy ice cream from the panoramic café and restaurant, or take a walk on the wooden boardwalk to the back of the park, which is covered with flowers throughout spring and summer. During late April, there were bright and cheery yellow rapeseed blossoms (菜の花 nanohana) in bloom when I visited. 

 

Oishi Park (大石公園)
Address: 2515-11 Oishi, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru, Yamanashi 401-0305
Access: 30-minute bus ride from Kawaguchiko Station (河口湖駅) on the Red Line Sightseeing Bus.

 

Hoto, a Yamanashi local delicacy

Hoto noodles, a specialty of Yamanashi. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Lake Kawaguchi is located in Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県), and one of the local must-try dishes is hoto noodles (ほうとうhōtō). Featuring thick noodles and vegetables in a savoury broth, this warm and hearty dish was a delight to eat, the the restaurant was right in front of Kawaguchiko Station, making it the perfect last stop before returning back to Tokyo.

 

Farewell Mount Fuji

Is this Japan’s most beautiful convenience store? (Image credit: Carissa Loh)

 

Before boarding my bus back to Tokyo, I dropped by what social media has dubbed “Japan’s most beautiful convenience store”, a Lawson with a perfect view of Mount Fuji in the background. Farewell Mount Fuji, and hope to see you again soon!

 

Header image credit: Carissa Loh

 

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