Along with the arrival of spring in May, the Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park becomes resplendent with broad fields of blooming Shibazakura (Moss Phlox) for which Ozora Town in Hokkaido is renowned. The Shibazakura Festival is timed to coincide with the blossoming of the flowers in the spring, which comes later in Hokkaido than in other areas of Japan. You won't become bored here as there is a variety of activities to choose from and places to visit such as shops serving local gourmet dishes, a go-kart course, day-visits to hot springs, fishing ponds, and an old, historical shrine.
The famous Shibazakura draw many visitors and heralds the arrival of spring in Hokkaido
If any scenery could said to be representative of spring in Hokkaido it would be the lavender-colored fields of Shibazakura stretching out under the broad expanse of the blue sky. Mid-May is the best time to visit to see the delicate red, pink, and white flowers in bloom. Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park is located in Higashimokoto, Ozora Town in the Okhotsk region, and lies at the foot of Mt. Mokoto. The park is open from May 3 to September 30 every year.
The park is easily accessible either by a 45-minute drive from Abashiri city center or a 30-minute drive from Memanbetsu Airport. When the Shibazakura are in bloom, visitors come by car and bus from within and outside Hokkaido and in recent years it has become a popular sightseeing spot with foreign visitors.
The Shibazakura planted in the park cover an area of about 100,000 square meters. Carpets of Shibazakura extend up to the tops of the surrounding hills. When in full bloom, they present a beautiful scene extending like a velvet carpet, their fragrance filling the air and further alluring visitors.
Enjoy local gourmet dishes at the Higashimokoto Shibazakura Festival
The Higashimokoto Shibazakura Festival is scheduled every year to coincide with the flowers being in full bloom. In 2018 it was held during Golden Week on Thursday, May 3 through Sunday, June 3. In addition to various stage events, many types of local gourmet dishes prepared with dairy products, vegetables, and marine products of the Higashimokoto and Okhotsk regions are offered. Both adults and children enjoyed the many events offered!
Pathways in the park are well-maintained, allowing for enjoyable 30-minute to one-hour strolls. Also, during the festival period a truck is outfitted with seats for touring the park. This is ideal for those who have trouble walking, such as young children or the elderly. From it the scenery of the park can be enjoyed and it is also possible to go up to the top of the hills.
There is an observatory on the top of the hill. From here you can get a dynamic view of the whole park. The contrast between the carpet of Shibazakura and the broad expanse of blue sky will long remain in your memory.
There is a fishing pond, go-kart track, shrine, and even hot spring. Enjoy all the different activities in the park!
The Shibazakura are not the only attractions in the park! You can spend the entire day with family and friends enjoying the various activities such as the go-kart course and a pond where you can fish for yamame, a kind of trout.
There are also natural hot spring facilities and foot baths in the park! This is a chloride hot spring that warms you through and through and leaves your skin with a pleasing glow. This is a clear, gravity-fed hot spring.
Higashimokoto no yu芝桜の湯
- Address 〒 099-3232 北海道網走郡大空町東藻琴末広393 ひがしもこと芝桜公園内 / Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park 393, Higashimokoto Suehiro, Ozora-cho Abashiri-gun, Hokkaido, 099-3232, Japan
- Phone Number 0152-66-3111
Fee: Adults 440 yen, elementary school children 140 yen, infants 70 yen (all prices include tax) ※ No charge for the foot bath
Hours of operation: 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM (reception closes at 5:00 PM) during the Shibazakura Festival; 1:00 PM - 8:00 PM (reception closes at 7:00 PM) from the second Monday in June through September 30
* Access is possible from another entrance outside the park's open hours. Closed on Wednesdays
There is also a Shinto shrine within the park. Taking the stairs up the hill you will come to a Torii gate the same color as the Shibazakura. Passing under it and making your way to the top you’ll come upon a small shrine. The Yamatsumi shrine was erected in 1913 by people who came from the Soma-gun region of Fukushima Prefecture to worship the mountain god Oyamatsumi. People pray to this god for matters relating to agriculture, successful business, bountiful marine catches, hunting, finding a suitable marriage partner, being blessed with children, safe childbirth, safe journeys, and traffic safety.
How this landscape came about
The story behind the origin of this park is a moving one. Mr. Suekichi Nakahachi (1918 - 2002) was a farmer who grew Shibazakura in his garden. The park got its start in 1977 when the Mokotoyama Hot Spring Association asked for his help in creating a place of relaxation for the village using Shibazakura.
This prompted Mr. Nakahachi to give up farming and join the association at the age of 58. He began clearing the hillsides by himself and planting seedlings of Shibazakura one at a time. It took about 8 years for the hills to be transformed into the pink carpets as they appear today. Mr. Nakahachi continued to care for the Shibazakura for 22 years until he retired at the age of 80 in 2001.
One cannot help but to be amazed that a single individual planted each of the plants one at a time to create this beautiful landscape.
Shibazakura herald the late arrival of spring in Hokkaido and the blooming of flowers. This landscape is bound to move anyone who sees it and leave them with unforgettable memories of it. The warm weather of late spring makes it the ideal season for sightseeing in Hokkaido. We certainly hope you will come and enjoy it, too.
*The Shibazakura Festival dates fluctuate depending on when the flowers are in full bloom. For more details please call the telephone number below.
0152-66-3111 (between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM)
Park entrance fee: Adults (junior high school age and above) 500 yen; elementary school age and younger 250 yen
*Tax is included in both fees
Park is open from May 3 to September 30
Hours of operation: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
*All the photos were taken before 2016
*Photos provided by the Shibazakura Park Authority and Ozora Town Office Regional Promotion Division Industry Group
Written by : Etsuro Nagao