Hitsujiyama Park is famous for its shibazakura - known as Japan’s other sakura! After the cherry blossoms have fallen from the trees, the ground starts to blossom when the shibazakura (known as moss phlox in English) starts to bloom. It’s like a carpet of flowers, dense and colorful and an absolute must-see sight!
One of the best places to experience Japan’s moss phlox phenomenon is Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, just an 80-minute train ride away from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro.
There, the small flowers spread over a spacious hill with the majestic Mount Bukō in the background. We visited the park to give you a first-hand impression of just how stunning this scenery is!
*This article was originally published in 2018.
*Event dates, times, and content are subject to change depending on the spread of Covid-19.
- Table of Contents
- Hitsujiyama Park’s 'Shibazakura' Moss Phlox Hill
- Best views and shibazakura photo spots at Hitsujiyama Park
- There are 9 different moss phlox varieties at the park
- Unique Heart-Shaped Patterns
- Savor Local Delights at the Market!
- Hitsujiyama Park Beyond the Moss Phlox
- See more of Japan's gorgeous flowers with these tours!
Hitsujiyama Park’s 'Shibazakura' Moss Phlox Hill
As already mentioned, shibazakura is the Japanese name for moss phlox or creeping phlox and literally means “lawn cherry blossom.”
Just like how actual cherry blossoms cover trees in pale pink and white, the moss phlox covers the ground entirely in about 10cm-high flowers. The scenery looks nothing short of a fantastical painting! The best time to see the moss phlox in bloom is about one month, between mid-April and early May.
Within Chichibu’s Hitsujiyama Park is <Shibazakura-no-oka|i@>, or Moss Phlox Hill. The name can be taken literally, as the entire hill is covered in flowers of different seasons.
Every year, the Shibazakura Festival is held during the moss phlox season, drawing in visitors from all over Japan to indulge in the sight, events, and various delicacies from food stalls.
(*2022 dates for the Shibazakura Festival have not yet been decided, but Shibazakura-no-oka will be opened with Covid-19 measures in place.)
Shibazakura-no-oka spans an area of 17,600 square meters (a little over 4 acres) in total and is the largest shibazakura area in the Kanto area.
While that size may sound intimidating, it is surprisingly easy and relaxing to stroll all-around in about 30 minutes.
The flowers, planted to create a mosaic of pink, white, and purple, are roughly divided into the northwest slope, the southwest slope, and the east slope.
The northwest slope gets the most sun and is the earliest to bloom, followed by the east slope and finally the southwest slope as the latest.
Hitsujiyama Park has three entrances. The Central Entrance is the main one, offering a beautiful view of the moss phlox with the mountain towering majestically in the background.
The Shōbuta Entrance boasts a view of the flowers from below and makes you follow a path in between the moss phlox. The third entrance is called Une Entrance and known for its stunning scenery of pink and white flowers with a stark contrast.
Best views and shibazakura photo spots at Hitsujiyama Park
The moss phlox flowers are about 10 centimeters high, so to capture just how wide the colorful carpet is, take a picture from the lowest possible position. Aim your lens slightly upward to capture the unique magnificence of moss phlox at its best.
We recommend turning the device upside down if you're using a smartphone so that the camera lens is the bottom half. Even if you have people or yourself in the shot, the lower-than-usual position is still the best choice.
There are also great spots of other flowers with moss phlox in the background, especially at the hill of the Central Entrance.
To get Mount Bukō in the picture together with the shibazakura, don’t kneel all the way to the ground but find the middle or lower-middle between eye level and ground.
The pictures below were taken from the bottom of the slope at the Central Entrance and from the point where the path from the Shōbuta Entrance crosses. Elevated benches at the east slope offer beautiful views of both the southwest and northwest slopes together.
There are 9 different moss phlox varieties at the park
Top, from left to right:
1) Amazing Grace
2) McDaniel's Cushion
Bottom, from left to right:
3) Little Dot
4) Autumn Rose
Top, from left to right:
5) Scarlet Flame
6) Emerald Cushion
Bottom, from left to right:
8) Oakington Blue
9) Mont Blanc
With the hills blooming in white, pink, and purple, it’s easy to see that Hitsujiyama Park has more than one kind of moss phlox, but would you have guessed that there are nine in total?
They all vary in color and shape, differences that become obvious and interesting when examining the tiny flowers up close. Only then do you really realize that these spacious, colorful carpets are made up of millions of unique little blossoms.
Unique Heart-Shaped Patterns
One of the things you’ll immediately notice as you gaze upon Hitsujiyama Park is the beautiful heart-shaped patterns that the moss phlox grows in.
That is unique to Chichibu and can be traced back to the Chichibu Yomatsuri (Night Festival). It’s a beautiful, enigmatic spectacle that features floats decorated with lanterns, carvings, and other ornaments – the entire event is so enticing and wonderfully traditional that it has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Hitsujiyama Park’s moss phlox is said to be planted in patterns that are similar to those on the traditional clothes worn for the festival, conveying a feeling of liveliness and joy. The hearts and curves made up of the different moss phlox varieties are the result.
Another reason is that a single moss phlox petal resembles the shape of a heart as well, and on the east slope, you’ll find a large heart entirely out of flowers.
Savor Local Delights at the Market!
As the Moss Phlox Festival is held, the Chichibu Specialties Market is also being held.
It’s the hot spot for local specialties, including amazing food but also crafts and produce. We especially urge you to try Chichibu’s famous miso potatoes, tempura of local produce, and the waraji katsu, breaded pork cutlet that gets its name for having a unique straw-sandal shape.
Trying the snacks at the different stalls is one of the highlights of visiting Hitsujiyama Park during this time. Some shops with stalls here usually only sell to wholesalers and companies, so you’re in for plenty of hard-to-come-by treats!
From a famous sushi restaurant with a history of 100 years to beautiful products from a Chichibu glass manufacturer, browsing the market is a unique and fun experience that no one should miss out on.
(*Due to Covid-19, no food or beverages are allowed in the park in 2022.)
Hitsujiyama Park Beyond the Moss Phlox
Even if you miss the moss phlox season, Hitsujiyama Park is beautiful all around the year. Cherry blossoms can be admired in spring, while beautiful irises blossom in early summer.
The park overlooks the town of Chichibu and thus offers a stunning sight of a more rural side of Japan, reinforced by the majestic mountains all around. Hitsujiyama actually means “sheep hill,” so naturally, you’ll encounter wooly friends within the park, and the playground is a major highlight for kids.
On the north side opposite Moss Phlox Hill, you’ll find the Buzokan Museum and an art museum, should your heart long for cultural activity. While the scenery alone is well worth the trip to Chichibu’s Hitsujiyama Park, there’s plenty to do and discover!
Admission fee during the Shibazakura Festival
・Entrance fee collection period: April 15 - May 5, 2022
* Admission fee is subject to change depending on the blooming condition.
・Entrance fee: General 300 yen, general groups (20 people or more) 250 yen
・Free for junior high school students and younger. Tax included
See more of Japan's gorgeous flowers with these tours!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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