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. In Yamanashi Prefecture, the star is shibazakura.
What even is shibazakura?
Moss phlox is a small ground cover native to the United States. Its Japanese name, shibazakura, roughly translates to “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 sakura.
Tell me more about the Fuji Shibazakura Festival
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, set around a small lake (that, according to legend, is home to a tamed dragon), against the backdrop of Japan’s most famous landmark (Mt Fuji, obviously).
Should you ever get your fill of the flowers, there’s also a teapicking area and footbaths — strategically placed so you can soak your soul in the view and your feet in the water at the same time.
Can I picnic there?
Sadly, no tarps are allowed. However! There are benches and restaurants on site and there will also be food trucks especially for the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. Promised treats include fried chicken made to look like Mt Fuji lava rocks and yakisoba (fried noodles) with pretty pink sakura ebi (literally “cherry blossom shrimp”).
How much does it cost?
Opening times and prices fluctuate throughout the event:
April 16–22: 8am–3pm, admission ¥800
April 23–28: 8am–4pm, admission ¥900
April 29: 7am–5pm, admission ¥1,000
April 30 to May 5: 6am–5pm, admission ¥1,000
May 6–8: 7am-5pm, admission ¥1,000
May 9–15: 8am-4pm, admission ¥900
May 16–22: 8am–4pm, admission ¥800
May 23–29: 8am–3pm, admission ¥800
For children aged 3–12, admission is a flat ¥250 throughout the event. Under 3s are free.
Getting to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival
Lake Motosuko is part of the Fuji Five Lakes, an outdoor resort area at the base of Mt Fuji. Kawaguchiko is the main transport hub for the area, with easy bus and train links to Tokyo. As always, it’s a good idea to use public transport, and luckily we have a guide on getting from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko.
From Kawaguchiko Station, a shuttle bus will run direct to the festival venue roughly every half hour. The cost is adult/child ¥2,200/¥1,100 round-triip, and this covers admission to the festival as well. Tickets can be purchased online.
Pro tip: Want to pack in a lot without worrying about local transport? Book a one-day tour that includes fruit picking at Yamanashi Orchard, entry to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, a ride up to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station (half-way up Mt Fuji), a lunch of local hoto noodles, and a trip up the Mt Kachi-Kachi Ropeway for panoramic views of Fuji and the surrounding Fuji Five Lakes region. All this for not much more than the cost of getting to the festival from Tokyo by yourself.
Note that the area is in a highland region and can stil be chilly in April, so check the weather before you go. It won’t close if it’s raining. Event organizers recommend wearing sensible shoes. No pets.