The often-overlooked Doto region of Japan’s northern island is off the beaten path, but should be on your itinerary.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is latitudinally different enough from the rest of the country that its seasons change later. So while the Tokyo area is getting ready for the early-summer rainy season to start, spring is finally getting into full swing in Hokkaido.
Most visitors to the island plan their itinerary around the Sapporo to Hakodate route, but if you’re willing to venture into the eastern section of Hokkaido, called the Doto area, there’s some truly breathtaking scenery waiting for you in Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park.
Technically, these gorgeous flowers are a kind of phlox. In Japan, though, they’re called shibazakura, meaning “lawn cherry blossoms,” due to their beautiful shades of pink that bring to mind the sakura which bloom on trees each spring.
As we mentioned above, Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park is a bit out of the way, with the closest airport being not Hokkaido’s main air hub of New Chitose, but rather the regional Memanbetsu Airport. As added bonuses, Memanbetsu is also the ideal airport to fly into if you’re headed to the wilderness of the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or to hike Mt. Mokoto.
According to the park’s website, right now is the ideal time to see the shibazakura. As a matter of fact, there’s even a Shibazakura Festival going on until June 3, featuring live music performances and food booths selling local Hokkaido delicacies, like shibazakura soft serve.
Because really, the only thing better than a day gazing out over a field of beautiful flowers is a day gazing out over a field of beautiful flowers while eating ice cream.
Higashi Mokoto Shibazakura Park / ひがしもこと芝桜公園
Address: Hokkaido, Abashiri-gun, Ozora-cho, Suehiro 393
Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m.