In past blog posts, I’ve often enthused about the very admirable unity that exists between urban civilization and nature in Japan. And if that topic hasn’t gotten old to this writer, then it goes to show that natural wonders in this country really are astounding. It really depends on the season, I suppose, and after enjoying all the fall-slash-winter brand of natural wonders in Japan last semester, I feel myself very inspired to report on my personally preferred spring-slash-summer brand of outdoor tourist destinations. This time, I would like to talk about a little daytrip I took to a vast field of pink, purple, and white flowers out in the boonies of Chichibu, Japan.
There were a few weeks before the rainy season settled in, when Japan enjoyed sunny day after sunny day. It was during one of these days that I was struck with the familiar urge to go do something outside. Usually, I would greet such a feeling with much dread, as back in Los Angeles, all I could find within a drive-able distance on such a day was concrete and more concrete. In Tokyo, however, the internet has thus far revealed to me many great outdoor locations within reasonable distance, including a field of beautiful flowers in Chichibu, just under two-hours away from the city via a limited express train. With little difficulty, I purchased my ticket from the ticket machine at Ikebukuro station, and hopped onto the train with little waiting time in between.
Chichibu is a quaint little mountainous city in the west of Saitama that doesn’t get to enjoy a lot of visitors all the time, which I think is why so much energy surrounds the train station during the times of year when events are taking place there. I’d arrived too late to catch the bus up the mountain to where the flowers were, but there were plenty of signs in every direction (some in English) to show me the way by foot. Though I did regret having left so late, it was a relief to know that at least, I was going to get to enjoy a marvelous sunset as I walked through the city of Chichibu, even if the park had already closed for the day.
As I made my way up a hill (where the field of flowers was supposedly located), I encountered more than a few signs in Japanese that said something about the park closing at five o’ clock. I solemnly glanced at my cellphone, saw that it was already a half hour past five, and nearly turned on my heels, when I decided that hey, I might as well just make it to the top. Boy was I not expecting there to still be a crowd of people walking through the field of pink, purple and white when I did reach the top, nor did I expect no one to stop me from walking through the gates – the security guard even waved at me with a smile.
Sure, the flowers and sunset were both really pretty, but what really got to me that day was the idea of how accessible nature is in Japan. In spite of it having been past the park’s closing time, visitors were still allowed to enter in light of the beautiful sight that had been spawned from the union of the golden sunset and pink petals. It’s the kind of nationwide appreciation for nature – free of all the artificial “save nature” campaigns which take the magic away – that I haven’t found anywhere else. And it’s an attitude which I will truly miss upon my return to the United States. For now, I’m planning to soak up as much of that Japanese sunshine as possible, before the rainy season hits.