As Japan gets ready to flip the calendar from May to June, it’s a perfect time to get out of the house and spend some time outdoors. If you’re the sort who hates cold weather, it’s finally warm enough to spend the afternoon outside with no need of a jacket, and if you can’t stand the heat, you’ve only got a few weeks left until the onset of the steamy rainy season and sizzling midsummer weather patterns.
And to sweeten the deal, right now there’s a perfect spot for your sojourn with nature, this breathtaking field of over 15 million flowers in Saitama Prefecture known as the Heavenly Poppies.
Saitama gets a bad rap as Tokyo’s tragically unhip neighbor to the north, but for those open-minded enough to look past the stigma, there’re some cool places to be found in the prefecture. The Chichibu district, for example, has mountains, hiking trails, and shrines that are all worth checking out.
If you’re heading to Chichibu between mid-May and early June, the first stop on your day trip from Tokyo should be Chichibu Kogen Bokujo (Chichibu Highlands Farm). Like many of the agricultural tourism sites that dot Japan’s rural landscape, visitors to the park can observe animals such as sheep and rabbits and enjoy the lush, verdant landscape.
Difficult as it may be to tear your eyes away from the adorable critters, you’ll want to make the effort when the poppies are in bloom. As part of a bid to boost tourism to the area, a five-hectare (12.4-acre) field was planted with Shirley poppies. If that sounds like a massive plot of land for a flower bed, it is, but don’t think that means there are large patches of empty space between one flower and the next.
天空のポピー！ 天国みたい はぁぁ〜〜〜、、、 http://t.co/bdhCaOCuei—
ako (@ako_kwiaty) May 24, 2015
Covering the hillside are more than 15 million poppies, and while you’ll find a couple of white and pink blossoms mixed in, their almost uniform crimson color makes for a dramatically breathtaking view.
秩父高原牧場・天空のポピー 一面のポピー畑きれいでした(*´ω`*) http://t.co/48EUhLM4mX—
カナ (@canaria9111) May 24, 2015
Especially for visitors from one of Japan’s urban centers, where you’re as likely to see skyscrapers and power line in equal proportion to actual sky when you look up, Chichibu Kogen Bokujo’s mountain location provides a beautiful contrast between the red flowers below and the blue and white of the skies and clouds above.
天空のポピーを見にきた 絶景だ http://t.co/60OSKYL4mh—
こやよう [ ' ょ ' ] (@Pacific_O13) May 26, 2015
朝一で秩父高原牧場近くの「天空を彩るポピー」を見に行ってきました！ 謳い文句に間違いなく天空を彩ってました。 #ポピー #写真好きな人と繋がりたい http://t.co/4626Go0RKr—
もっさん (@Naaaassom) May 27, 2015
Of course, if you can drag yourself out of bed at an early enough hour, sunrise is also an excellent time to scope out the Heavenly Poppies.
秩父高原牧場の天空のポピー 見頃はだいたい6月中旬まで (こちらの写真は今月5/23[土]の朝に撮影) http://t.co/6UFd570gjp—
多鳴鍵(たなけん) (@kuraaken) May 24, 2015
Don’t worry if you’re not a morning person, though. As long as you get there before sundown, it’s still a sight to see in the last light of the day.
秩父 天空のポピー。 夕陽撮ってきました。 #ファインダー越しの私の世界 #フォト基地 http://t.co/GfP0E8vj9S—
ogikubo (@ogikubo_photo) May 26, 2015
If all of these photos have you in the mood to head to Saitama’s floral heaven, the closest train stop is Minano Station on the Chichibu Main Line, a two-hour ride from Tokyo Station. While the poppies are in bloom, there’s a free weekend shuttle bus from the station to the park entrance, with the trip taking either 25 or 35 minutes depending on whether it’s a direct route or makes other stops along the way.
Timetables can be found here, listing the first bus at 9:05 a.m., and the last at 3:35 p.m. Admission to Chichibu Kogen Bokujo’s poppy field is 200 yen (US$1.70), which when converted to a per-poppy basis is practically free.