Japan Travel Blog April 2015: Mt. Fuji Shibazakura

I never quite realized the magnitude of the saying ‘Timing is key’ until I visited the Fuji Five Lakes area. This area is most well-known for the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, when the ground is covered in a pattern of shibazakura or pink moss (among others) that makes the whole area light up with life. The pictures I’ve seen that were taken at the peak of the shibazakura bloom are all so stunning, but when we arrived during mid-April, this was the thickest field of pink moss I could spot:

Most of the flowers haven’t bloomed yet, so a lot of areas were like this:

But hey, you have to take what you get right?

And to make things even more “fun”, it was super foggy this day so it also wasn’t a good time for spotting the majestic Mt. Fuji. Sans the fog, Mt. Fuji would have been the perfect backdrop even if there was a lack of the striking shibazakura. As it stands, I can’t tick ‘see Mt. Fuji’ off my travel bucket-list just yet. But walking around this festival area, I can most definitely imagine with clarity what it would look like in its most glorious moment.

This area is located a close 3 kilometres away from the famous Lake Motosu, and by the way, it’s not “Lake Motosuko” because that would be redundant as ‘ko‘ (湖) already means lake. Motosu is just one of Japan’s famous Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko/富士五湖) that are located at the base of Mt. Fuji. I have very strong intentions of touring around these five lakes in the near future. 😉

In general, the best time to come view the shibazakura is during May, but I hope you’ll still come walk with me to see the few flowers in bloom during our visit?

The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is typically held during mid-April to late May, but in the last few years apparently the first three weeks of May is when the 800,000-something stalks of shibazakura reveal themselves fully. Since there are five varieties of shibazakura being planted here, the fields of pink, white, and purple colours in different hues create an absolutely breathtaking sight.

Just imagine the fields in these areas packed with all those coloured little flowers and I think you’ll catch my drift:

There are several festival stalls selling a variety of souvenirs and food here, typically shibazakura-themed of course. I also spotted sellers of fresh tea and pots of pink moss. Souvenirs are nice as keepsakes but you definitely have to buy some local snacks! We bought ourselves some gigantic chestnuts to munch on. These are definitely some of the biggest chestnuts I’ve ever seen.

Souvenirs and food aside, people really come here for the flowers. The way the shibazakura are planted in this area produces an interesting circular swirl of patterns that can be best appreciated from high up. There is a sort of observation deck in the vicinity that helps you see the whole festival area and the formation of the shibazakura. 

Theoretically, this is a great place to take a photo of the shibazakura WITH the Mt. Fuji at the back. Alas, as you can see, the fog is like a giant hand that covers the top of the mountain. (The iconic white crown!) And boy does the festival area look even sparser from up here! On a clear day you’d see the Mt. Fuji and the sun would even glitter against the lake. On this day it was rainy and the fog just refused to roll away.

I guess at times like these, the better option is to walk about the flowers and get up close and personal with them. I’m not knowledgeable enough about flowers to be able to name all these, but the shibazakura I definitely recognize, and regardless of their colour, they are very pretty. Afar they look literally like a mass of mossy pink, but up close you can see the lovely shapes with the tips of the petals and inverted V. Here’s a thought for my next visit: I should try to see if they sell bookmarks with dried shibazakura on them.

My favourite ones are these dual-coloured shibazakura. The pinks in the middle of the white petals look like they were painted on!

There are some other flowers growing here that add some dimension to this massive garden:

Since there was more green than pink at that moment, it made me appreciate all the more the tiny patches of land that actually do have a fair scattering of shibazakura. I want to swim in this pool of pink!

My dad and I shooting a keepsake photo and it almost seems like the shibazakura are too shy to show their faces. Heh. How vibrant this area must’ve been last May! I definitely need to come back here. When all the fields are pink and the skies are clear, I’ll be back.

The last onsen hotel we stayed in is called the Hakone Hotel in Kanagawa. It’s surrounded by some absolutely stunning views and nature, and I think a lot of people would enjoy staying here so I thought I’d share some snapshots.

When we arrived at the hotel, it was already evening (even though I know this photo was taken on a morning haha!) so we dropped off our things in our rooms before heading down for dinner. I don’t much mind sleeping on a futon, but if you’re used to sleeping on a bed, I think you’d agree that it is much nicer.

I didn’t include any shots of the bathroom when I talked about the previous hotels we lodged in, but this one bears a mention. If you’re like me and are too shy to walk around stark naked in the public bath, then you can make your own private bath in here. The bathtub is as deep as a bath spring, and I think it’s a neat idea. Just be careful not to fall into the bathtub while you’re showering right beside it.

For dinner, we were ushered into a private tatami dining hall. At this point I had become quite accustomed to eating tatami style, and even though I know that kaiseki meals aren’t the norm –can you imagine a housewife washing all those tiny dishes for her whole family everyday?!!!– I appreciated that I got to experience the Japanese way of eating cross legged on the floor. Not to mention every meal we had in Japan was awesome!

Breakfast was just okay, though I find these cafeteria style plates curious because I’ve never used such a thing before, but they are very practical!

This is the lovely and bright sitting area that opens up to a deck overlooking the gardens.

This looks like a giant bonsai garden does it not? Staring at it from the deck certainly makes me feel at peace and one with nature.

If we had more time to spend in this hotel, I would be exploring this garden path for sure. I wonder what lies behind all those trees?

A toast to the day! These Meiji yoghurt drinks are the best! The vending machines for these are located right at the entrance of the onsen. I guess they serve as refreshment after a hot steaming bath! (Don’t forget to return the bottles.) Japan has some really good yoghurt drinks, and I highly recommend you give them a go!

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