I did the day trip to Kawaguchiko for the seasonal Shibasakura Festival. Although I just missed the Sakura season in Tokyo, I was right on time for the Shibasakura blooming at Kawaguchiko, near Mount Fuji.
When I arrived in Tokyo, it was end April and we just missed the Sakura blooms. That was however, the beginning of the Shibasakura Festival at Mt Fuji. According to the festival site, this area has the highest concentration of Shibasakuras in Greater Tokyo – over 800,000 blooms.
I wasn’t expecting much really. I only wanted to see Mount Fuji, and since this festival was happening, I thought might as well. I’m glad we took this route. The Shibasakura Festival is a definite must-see. I believed we covered the entire festival ground within a span of two hours.
Shibasakuras are blossoms on the ground, as opposed to sakuras which are on trees. Its anglo name is rather unromantic – Moss Phlox. These are not your usual moss though; for starters these bloom gorgeous pink. They also come in pretty pastel blues, purples and delicate whites.
The shibasakuras bloom only from April to May each year and is a creeper plant, meaning it carpets the ground. Its Japanese name literally translates to “lawn cherry”, due to its close physical resemblance to sakuras.
The festival has other flowers too. One time, some flowers dancing in the wind mesmerised me still for a good 5 minutes.
Snack on gourmet Japanese food
Concurrently run was the Mount Fuji Gourmet festival that served up local specialties. Besides the Japanese usuals like your takoyakis and yakisobas, there were shibasakura-themed snacks on sale too.
If you nip over to the souvenir tent, you’ll find a dizzying array of even more shibasakura-themed tidbits. I took home a beautifully packed box of shibasakura mochis and strawberry dessert truffles.
And of course, the main reason why I wanted to visit – to see the UNESCO World Heritage site, Mount Fuji.
The festival was the perfect backdrop to catch a view of Mount Fuji. Even on good weather days, the mountain likes to hide behind clouds. We were lucky enough to catch a shot of the elusive Mount Fuji against the colourful shibasakuras. A few minutes after, clouds completely engulfed this beauty.
Get a cute passport chop
There’s a mini post office at the festival where you can send postcards, purchase stamp sets or have your passport chopped with the festival’s unique ink stamp.
While waiting for our bus back to Tokyo, we explored the surrounding town of Kawaguchiko and chanced upon Lake Kawaguchiko. The lake is one of the famous Fuji Five Lakes and provided a peaceful respite.
With coffee and our shibasakura-themed mochi snacks on hand, we parked ourselves by the lake. If ever there was a perfect setting for deep conversations, this was it. The vast, almost eerie stillness of the lake was therapeutic.
6. Sakura Trees
Since the festival was at the cusp of the end of Sakura season, you can actually spot some sakuras. There were some trees at the event itself, or scattered all over the peaceful town of Kawaguchiko.
There were direct buses to the festival location, but it booked out really fast. Since we didn’t have a set schedule, we only went down to Chuo bus offices the day before our shibasakura trip to purchase the tickets. They were all sold out of the direct coach tickets, unsurprisingly, so we went the conventional but not at all troublesome route of Shunjuku, Tokyo -> Kawaguchiko -> shuttle to Festival grounds.
On hindsight this was the better option, since the last direct bus back to Tokyo departs at 2pm, and would not have allowed us time to explore the town of Kawaguchiko. We left the town at about 5pm, and reached Tokyo a couple hours later, with some traffic jam in between.