A Day Trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji Shibazakura Festival

It rained on our June wedding day, neither torrentially nor offensively. Just a purring trickle, the kind that drips repetitively, pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter from the orifice of a neglected tap, sufficiently audible to the ears of the undistracted, failing short of a genuine irritant.

It was hardly a Shakespearean tragedy – all seasoned UK dwellers carry brollies year round. I was predictably told that it wouldn’t matter, that the day would be perfect regardless but those well-meaning yet anticipated words did little to appease my pre-wedding angst.

Pink Moss Flowerss Japan

Then, the day came.

It rained – from start to finish in one form or another.

And it was perfect.

seasonal spring Japan Tours April May
Pretty in Pink

The nervous bride back then would hardly have believed that it would eventually become a topic of light humour.

day trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo
An Idyllic Rainy Day by Mount Fuji

These days, when submerged under grey canopies and droplets on the patio, we rarely whinge; rather we find ourselves laughing wryly about how ”this weather is just like our wedding day,” the pregnant clouds bringing laughter to us in the most unexpected of ways.

The Shibazakura Festival Japan
The Fuji Shiba Sakura Festival

Following our big day though, the weather lords showed repentance. We flew to the Maldives in wet season; it rained the entirety of the week before our arrival but we were granted five days of flawless blue skies and shallow lagoons where fish would wade alongside us. We travelled to Borneo in wet season for 10 days. We had one evening of rain only, which started ferociously within minutes of us returning to our lodge after an entire day spent outdoors on a river safari, where we were completely at the mercy of the elements.

Japan blossom season

A Day Trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo

One particular day in Japan this April however, it seemed we had played the last of our climate trump cards. After a few days of delightful springtime sunshine in Tokyo, we drew the curtains in our hotel room one morning to find a city bathed in fog. Ironically, it was the one day, above all others, that we were seeking clear skies because we were off to see (or not see) Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji one day tour
First Sight of Mount Fuji

Pumpkin’s disappointed face was apparent. As a closet geography and mountain nerd (a title he vehemently refutes), in the pre-me era, he went off to Nepal alone with just a local walking guide by his side to climb in the Himalayas. He once had to cancel a solo visit to Kilimanjaro at the eleventh hour when life got in the way. There is something about visiting a mountain but not seeing its peak that perturbs his precise and organised nature.

Japan best highlights April
Colourful spreads at Fuji Shibzakura Festival

I reminded him there was much else to be excited about. The Fuji Shibazakura Festival, a snoop inside an ice cave, strawberry picking in the Japanese foothills and wine tasting.

pink moss shiba sakura Japan
Shiba Sakura Pink Moss

This was all part of our one day trip tour from Tokyo to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival in the Minamitsuru Yamanashi region and with or without Mount Fuji, this was one of the parts of our Japan trip I was most eagerly anticipating.

best day trip tour ideas from Tokyo

Fortunately, we soon learned that Pumpkin wouldn’t need any consoling when, midway through his sentence, our tour guide paused and hastily urged us to look to one side to see the first glimpse of Fuji. He then arranged an impromptu pit stop at a viewpoint to take some photographs of the mountain views before driving onto the ice cave.  He must have been well aware that this brief moment of visibility had a short shelf life and that it would be our only chance to see Mount Fuji that day, as indeed it was.

Shibazakura Festival Mount Fuji

The Narusawa Ice Caves near Mount Fuji

Having heard from several people that Japan can still be chilly in April, I insisted on packing my bulky, waterproof coat, especially as we had been advised to carry warm attire for the ice caves. You can imagine how annoyed I was with myself when I realised I had left it behind at the hotel.

Inside Narusawa Ice Cave Japan

Suffice to say that delving into an ice cave is absolutely freezing – literally not metaphorically. The Narusawa ice cave is a relatively small one and we had the option to borrow helmets and ice boots. Use the helmet folks – there are more enjoyable ways to spend a holiday than nursing a head injury. As for the boots, our guide advised us that trainers with good grip are usually fine for walking inside but don’t push your luck with flip flops or sandals.

Ice Cave Five Lakes Region Japan

With a combination of natural ice formations and manmade sculptures, the walk inside the cave isn’t arduous by any means but will be no fun for anyone claustrophobic or with sore joints. I’m a wee lass in height so the most I had to do was stoop low now and then but Pumpkin’s near 6 foot stature had him crawling on his hands and knees at one moment, albeit transiently.

Day Tour from Tokyo Shibazakura Festival
Not yet in full bloom

The Fuji Shibazakura Festival

By the time we arrived at the festival, we questioned whether that morning’s view of Mount Fiji had merely been a figment of our imagination, such was the resurgence of hazy mist enveloping us. The Shibazakura are vivacious pink, white and purple blossoms that tend to bloom in April and May in Japan, otherwise known as pink moss.

shiba sakura blossom season Japan April May

The Fuji Shibazakura Festival allows visitors a chance to see carpets of pink moss juxtaposed against the more subtle tones of a pristine lake and a Mount Fuji backdrop (when the skies are clear enough!)

Shibazakura Pink Moss

We had been warned that because we were there during the earliest part of the season, the pink moss was not yet in full bloom so the coverage of blossom was patchy rather than uniform throughout the fields.

Japanican Tours Shbia sakura festival

Even without full bloom though, it was breathtaking to see the elongated and stratified layers of floral tapestry surrounding us, somewhat reminiscent of the lavender fields in Surrey that I had visited a couple of summers ago.

UNESCO listed areas Japan

The incessant drizzle furred up my straggly and already unruly hair and the wind exploited the vulnerable fold in my umbrella.

Mount Fuji Shibazakura Festial tour review

Dressed in two flimsy layers that were never built for mountainous terrain, the goosebumps soon made themselves known to me but instead of racing for cover, as I typically would, I found myself unable to hurry, unable to peel myself away from the moment and eager to throw aside my brolly to embrace the Shibazakura wholeheartedly.

Shibazakura Day Trip Tour Blog Review

Another lovely touch at the festival is the endearingly and aptly titled Mount Fuji Delicious Foods Festival, a series of food vendors nestling under marquees with adjacent seating areas. Don’t be fooled by the casual appearances – as is so often the case in Japan, sometimes the tastiest local foods are found lurking behind the most unassuming exteriors and this is a perfect example.

Fujiyama Sweets Mount Fuji Delicious Food FestivalFuji Shiba Sakura Festival Blog Review

We were told that some of the food suppliers trading at the festival have actually competed locally to showcase the best provincial specialties and it was harder than I imagined choosing what to opt for. In the frosty weather, a plate of hot, flavoursome carbohydrates called out and I ultimately selected the Fujinomiya Yakisoba noodles, which were simple, un-fussy and yet bursting to the seams with flavour.

Mount Fuji Food Festival Yakisoba

I may not have expected the on-site patisserie to be anything special (after all, how fanciful can a dessert be when it’s found in a field in mountain highlands?!) But then I tried the cherry blossom and strawberry éclair and that soon laid any doubts to rest!

sakura cherry blossom eclair

There is a small souvenir shop on-site and anyone with a penchant for traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi) will have a hard time choosing between the many elegantly packaged boxes on offer but go for something seasonal such as strawberry, cherry blossom or peach and you can’t go too wrong.

Japanese seasonal dessertsJapan cherry blossom dessert Sakura

The Japanese are skilled at incorporating seasonal local fruits and flowers into not only their food but also their drinks.

Katsunuma Winery Wine Tasting Trip Japan

Later that day, we were taken to the Katsunuma winery and given an insight into the Japanese wine production process before being offered samples of locally made Japanese wines including the unusual peach wine and matcha wine flavours that I had neither seen nor heard of before. (If you’re a London based matcha addict, don’t miss this matcha tour!)

wine tasting trip JapanJapanesese Peach Wine Tasting

Strawberry Picking near Mount Fuji

On this memorable day trip to Mount Fuji, I found myself strawberry picking for the first time in 25 years!! Yes, a quarter of a century has passed since I last picked strawberries, which is unfathomable given that strawberries are such a quintessential part of a glorious British summer.

strawberry fields Japan

I made up for lost time here at this indoor strawberry growing farm and unlike many places at home, we were informed that we could eat as much as we wanted whilst there but were not allowed to smuggle out a secret stash for take-out purposes.

strawberry picking Mount Fuji Ice Cave tour

As an added treat, a chocolate fountain and bowl of marshmallows were provided, which was a decadent way to jazz up the ordinary strawberry picking experience and or for those wishing to be more conservative with their condiments, there was the option to dip your strawberries in condensed milk rather than chocolate. It was a first for me but surprisingly I much preferred it to the more familiar classic pairing of strawberries and cream.

strawberry picking Japanstrawberry picking experience Japan

We soon reclaimed our missing appetites, which had escaped from  us after a heavy lunch and the experience brought back fond memories of gleeful picking strawberries as a child.

best top day trips from Tokyo

From the blankets of blossom that framed the pavements at the Shibazakura Festival, the still tranquil ambience of the Fuji Five Lakes region and the rosy strawberries that our fingers plucked with zeal, this April day in the highlands of Japan proved to be one of the most idyllic of our entire trip. And to have seen Mount Fuji, despite the weather’s best attempts to engulf it, was the icing on the cake.

The Fuji Five Lakes Region, Japan

Practical Tips
  • Remember this is a seasonal experience so if this is something you want to see whilst in Japan, aim to plan your trip in the April/May period but remember there are no guarantees on the extent of the bloom
  • Various tour companies arrange trips to the Fuji Five Lakes region and the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. We arranged our day trip with Japanican, which included all costs and entry fees for the day with the exception of lunch, which guests choose and pay for independenetly at the Delicious Foods Festival
  • Wear layers and sensible walking shoes and bring warm clothing for the ice cave visit.

Have you ever had a rainy day of bliss?


37 thoughts on “A Day Trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji Shibazakura Festival

  1. Breathtaking photos! It sounds like such a fun festival near Mt. Fuji. The location is perfect as well!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 4:51 pm

      Thanks so much! It was such a beautiful, floral sight to see but I can only imagine how much more breathtaking it must be when the blossom is in peak season as well! I’d love to return one day 🙂

  2. Shikha we went to the festival around the same time, and sadly had the same disappointing experience in terms of seeing, or to be more precise, not seeing, Mt. Fuji. Although the field is still beautiful even when partially in bloom. I will try to visit it again next year at a better time. I loved the cave and strawberry picking that you did, what a fun activity! xoxo, nano

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 4:54 pm

      I know what you mean Nano, as I’d have loved to have seen the fields with Fuji in the background but considering how foggy and grey it was that day, I’m delighted that we managed to see Fuji at all that day, even though it was before the fields. I have lots of friends who have been and come back from trips to Japan and not managed to see it at all so we were grateful for that. But I am suuuuuper jealous that you live close enough that you will be able to go back to see the Shibazakura Festival on a sunnier clearer day and in full bloom – I would love to come back and see that myself one day but in the interim, I will live it again vicariously through your photos 🙂

  3. What a colourful day out! So glad Pumpkin got to see his mountain too! I loved my daytrip to Fuji, I went at a different time of year so no festivals for me, but I did get to go to the base camp on Fuji and then took a cable car ride into the clouds – was so odd, the fog meant we couldn’t see a thing!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 4:56 pm

      Oh wow Keri, that sounds like such an incredible experience – but a surreal one at that! The only time I’ve ever taken a cable car up to a mountainous region is in Switzerland in sunny, clear skies so I’m just trying to imagine how odd a feeling it must have been to take the cable car ride up and then not be able to see the mountain!! Japan is just so full of magnificent scenic spots though isn’t it (even when we can’t see them sometimes!!) 😀

  4. Wow, what a colorful experience! The festival sounds amazing, and I love the idea of strawberry picking. Good story about the weather, too!

  5. The flowers are absolutely stunning and I’d love to visit the ice caves

  6. Sounds like a pretty cool experience Shikha – I’m so pleased the fog cleared for you! We didn’t go Mt Fuji as such, Sanjay is very much into extreme theme parks so we went to Fuji-Q, here you can ride rollercoasters with a view of Mt Fuji, it’s actually pretty cool! – There’s also a lookout for people who aren’t overly into the extreme rides such as myself haha 🙂

  7. It seems like rain on your wedding day brought you a lot of weather good luck later! (Maldives, Borneo) And you still got to see Mt. Fuji, even though only briefly :-). All those pretty pink and purple flowers at the Fuji Shibazakura Festival are gorgeous!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:02 pm

      Exactly!! That’s what we always joke about too Janice & George – the fact that it might have rained on our wedding day but it’s stayed dry as anything pretty much everywhere we’ve been ever since (even against the odds!) The festival was just gorgeous and if I ever return to that part of the world, I’d love to time it for full bloom (although I hear Japan is also spectacular in Autumn time so that would tempt us too!) 🙂

  8. great shot of Mt Fuji – every time i tried to take one it was cloudy!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:03 pm

      Thanks Andy! Honestly, we seriously lucked out with that! It was so grey and foggy for the first hour or two after we woke up that morning – and for most of the day subsequently to when this photograph was taken so we were really fortunate that the fog lifted just for half an hour or so en route to the Shibazakura Festival, allowing us to see Fuji briefly! 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh so pretty!! I would be in heaven here with all this pink! And even pink sweet treats! Shame it was raining but still worth the trip to see it 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:06 pm

      I normally hate wandering around in the rain Ayla but it was just so beautiful that I couldn’t be bothered with holding my umbrella and worrying about tying up my hair – all I wanted to do was walk along the fields taking photographs of all the pink! And yes, OMG the dessert place – seriously, I wanted one of everything! Cherry blossom in desserts has such a gentle, mild flavour and it’s hard to find foods with it here in England so I didn’t know where to begin with what to choose but you can never go too wrong with an eclair 🙂

  10. beautiful flowers! the eclair looks great and you had strawberries in chocolate too? awesome!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:07 pm

      Yep! It was a wonderful and idyllic day of pinks, reds, fruits and blossoms Tanja 🙂 Talk about a colourful way to cheer up the fog and the rain! 😀

  11. I feel like we may have some similar rain experiences – it also rained on my wedding day and we had many rainy, but blissful, days in Japan too! This looks like such a beautiful place to visit and I love the different experiences you got to do. I’m finding myself really missing Japan this week. Can we go back please?

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:08 pm

      Yes please! I am MORE than up for that Emily! It’s such a magnificent place with the most pristine open spaces and blossom viewing spots isn’t it so even the rain couldn’t detract from the magic of this festival 🙂 Really looking forward to reading more about your experiences in Japan soon hopefully!

  12. The superstitious voices of yore say that rain on your wedding day is a good omen…
    How beautiful despite the cold!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:09 pm

      Yes, that’s what everyone said to us on our wedding day Emma and of course, I thought they were just trying to make me feel better but as far as holiday weather goes, they seem to have been onto something with that superstition!! 😀

  13. This whole trip!! Wow! It looks amazing, the flowers are stunning and matcha wine?? That sounds like something I need. Never heard of strawberries and condensed milk, not quite as catchy as strawberries and cream but I’d imagine it would taste nice.

    Ash xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:10 pm

      Yep, doesn’t have the same ring when you say it does it Ash but actually, it tastes even nicer with condensed milk in my opinion Ash! I know you have a weakness for matcha too so you’d have loved the wine! The trip was such a diverse and fascinating way to spend a day in the mountain highlands there 🙂

  14. Looks like it’s worth the trip just to see those flowers! Wow!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:11 pm

      It definitely was Becki! Even with the fog, it was one of those sights that just leaves you in awe, as I had never seen fields of pink like this and it wasn’t even in full bloom!

  15. The colours are beautiful! It’s so cool that you visited the winery 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 2, 2016 — 5:12 pm

      When we booked the trip, we were only really doing so for the Shibazakura Festival so the other aspects like the strawberry picking, the ice caves and the winery visit were such wonderful little surprises when we read the details of the full itinerary! Such a magical, fairytale of a day in the Japanese highlands 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

  16. wow!! what a colorful adventure. I wish I could witness Mount Fuji Shibazakura Festival too someday. Thanks for sharing me a wonderful and colorful experience of yours.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 7, 2016 — 6:12 pm

      Aww thank you so much for such a lovely comment Nika! It was such a colourful place to visit and I highly recommend it if you ever happen to be in Japan at April.May time 🙂

  17. Beautiful! The problem with cloudy skies is that photos can appear washed out. But in this case the colors of the flowers pop and make them the highlight of the photos.
    We’ll be off to Japan in November and Mt. Fuji definitely a place we’d like to see. Probably not the time for the shibazubuka festival but maybe some nice autumn leaves 🙂

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 7, 2016 — 6:43 pm

      I saw that in your recent post Frank and I’m so excited for you! Autumn is actually the other time that we were thinking of going before we eventually booked it for the spring but I hear it is absolutely gorgeous with all the autumnal leaves. It was so grey drizzly day the day we were at the Shibazakura festival that, as you say, it really just accentuated the beautiful colours of the blossoms so we were definitely grateful for that and to have managed to have seen Fuji 🙂

  18. Hi! Just came across your page now and I’m enjoying reading your posts! My friend and I will be heading to Japan this April too and would love to experience the festival. What tour group did you join and do you recommend it?:) Thanks!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 22, 2017 — 2:07 pm

      Thanks so much for reading along Camille and I’m so excited for you both heading to Japan so soon – I wish I could go back and do it all over again as I had such fun out there. I definitely recommend the festival but the only thing that you should be warned about is that it might not be in full bloom at that time (it wasn’t when we went) so although we still thought it was beautiful and there was also the strawberry picking, wine tasting and ice cave visit but if you want to see the shibazakura festival in the way that it looks in picture pefect photos, then April may be too early. I still had a great time there though! We booked the day trip through the Japanican website – they do lots of different tours. Hope that’s helpful and that you have a wonderful time!

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