An off the beaten path spot for Canola flowers in Saitama Prefecture. They actually stretch for miles; from Kawajima Town, through Yoshimi all the way up to Konosu. This post focuses on the area in Kawajima.
Every single day of the year has at least one flower of the day. The flower of the day for February 6th is one of my personal favorites; canola flowers. I personally know them as rapeseed or nanohana 菜の花, but it would seem canola flowers is the most commonly used name. They are also called field mustard, but that is actually a slightly different plant. The botanical name is Brassica napus of the Brassicaceae. Rapeseed / Canola flower can be seen all over Japan in early spring. Early blooming canola flower can bloom as early as the end of December! But generally the best time to see rapeseed is March.
Rapeseed or Field Mustard or Canola Flowers, Nanohana in Japanese, are a small bright yellow spring flower. They grow to about 60 or 70 centimeters high on average, but it is not unusual to see rapeseed a meter or more high toward the end of the season. The season is generally considered to be from February to March, but you can often see them from February right up to the end of May.
Canola flowers are used for cooking oil production around the world. But more than that in Japan, canola flowers are actually a popular spring vegetable. Nanohana means “edible flower” or literally “vegetable flower” in Japanese. People pick wild canola flowers along the embankments and bring them home to cook. They can be eaten on their own (once cooked) or as an ingredient.
The hanakotoba, language of the flower, is said to be “cheerful” or “bright”. The cheerful is derived from the contrast of the green stem and bright yellow flower. There is something about yellow flowers that exude cheeriness isn’t there! In addition, the canola flower is a harbinger of spring in Japan, known to brighten the hearts of people after a tough winter.
Canola Flowers Saitama Prefecture
There are thousands of places to see canola flowers in Japan. In Saitama there is a great choice. But when I think of canola flowers in Saitama Prefecture, Kawajima Town instantly comes to mind. Kawajima Town has some of the best unspoiled canola flower views in all of Saitama. I have actually introduced three places to see canola flowers (aka rapeseed) in Kawajima Prefecture already, but I have saved the least attended to last.
All four of the canola flower locations in Kawajima Town are quite off the beaten path. However, in the last two years the nanohana by Heisei no Mori park have become increasingly popular as you can pick the flowers for free. Also, the ones by Honda Airport and Demaru elementary school do attract a few visitors. In addition, the canola flowers by Tenjinbashi attract photographers. But the location I am introducing today: I have visited several times over the years and I have yet to see another person there!
Acres of canola flowers
The fourth canola flower in Kawajima town is acres of flood lands that are immersed in a sea of yellow from around the end of February to late April. It is thee most off the beaten path spot for nanohana, with literally nothing around it. There used to be a small fishing park and Ichijuku farm (Houkou Ichijiku farm) nearby, but unfortunately both have closed. The closest landmark to these canola flowers is a little park; Tobainuma Natural Park.
Tobainuma Natural park is on Google maps, but the canola flower area is not. You have to go up and over the embankment at Tobainuma and drive / walk / cycle down to the next embankment. Once you go up and over at Tobainuma, I’m pretty sure you’ll see them! Or if you pick up a tourist map of Kawajima Town, the area is clearly marked. It is in the North east corner of the town. There are only agricultural roads leading to the area with cycle paths along the various embankments that dot the landscape. There are also some picturesque bridges over the Ichino river, which flanks the carpet of gold.
The best time to see the canola flowers in this area of Kawajima Town is usually from early March to mid April. However, like the kawazuzakura, the canola flowers were late to bloom in 2022. As of March 20th 2022 the canola are still quite low. Another thing to be careful of is, sometimes town management decide to mow the embankments even when the canola are still in full bloom. In my experience, if they do this its usually in April, not March. Unfortunately, it has happened a couple of times over the years.
The best way to see them is to cycle along the embankments. Because they actually really do stretch for miles and miles. Just keep walking / cycling toward Yoshimi and, if you’re up for it, through Yoshimi to Konosu. But be warned, the paths aren’t always smooth, as you can see above. I know cycling is not ideal for most, particularly if you are coming from afar. You can park by the Tobainuma Natural Park and walk the rest of the way.
Tobainuma Natural Park
Houkou Ichijiku farm was a popular place for picking Ichijiku. Kawajima Town is the largest producer of Ichijiku in Saitama Prefecture. Unfortunately, the farm and the popular fishing center beside it closed during the pandemic. (But the other small fishing park on the other side of the road is still open).
However, the Tobainuma Natural Park is currently still there. But they are doing some work in the area at the moment so the car park is half its normal size. There is a picturesque bridge on a pond to an open space. There are some seats in the open space, where wisteria grows in late spring. In addition, there is a little shrine on a mound in the park area too.
In spring this area has some beautiful cherry blossoms, including Somei Yoshino. As there is rarely anyone else around, you can enjoy a private hanami! And between February and April the embankment behind the park is golden with rapeseed flowers. If you walk up on the embankment the sight of dozens of rice fields on the other side is quite beautiful. And if you walk down into those fields and turn left (rice fields on your right) past the fields and then turn right, scenery atypical of Japan greets you;
|Canola area, Shimoomino, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama 350-0102
Tobainuma Natural Park, Tobai Shinden, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama 350-0112
|to the Kawajima Town Hall
|The only official information is a few sentences on this tourism map from Kawajima Town.
Things to do nearby
There are a few points of interest a short drive away. Such as the Bokuranote Dog Cafe and a thatched roof temple where you can see beautiful weeping cherries. There is also a small park, Heisei no Mori, that is actually home to Japan’s longest rose tunnel. The Arakawa Tarouemon nature reserve and Honda Airport are also close by car. Furthermore, Kawajima Town also has a 230 year old shoyu factory that you can tour and there is a “shoyu park” attached to it. The Toyama Memorial Museum is relatively close too.
And Tobainuma Natural Park on maps: