The Lupine flowers have started to bloom around Saitama Prefecture. You can see small displays of them in private gardens and occasionally public places such as parks or shrines. However, there is one location in Saitama where you can see a large display of Lupine (Lupines / Lupinus); Musashi Kyuryo Shinrin Park in Namegawa Town. The lupine started to bloom earlier in the week. They already look dreamy, but in another week they will look other worldly and make an ideal Golden week day trip in / to Saitama.
Lupinus (Lupin / Lupine) are a spire like flowering plant. They got their name from their bad rep! Once believed to suck all the nutrients from the soil leading to their name deriving from the latin for wolf. It turns out thought, that as members of the pea family (the legume family), they are actually good for the soil not the other way round. There are close to two hundred different of species. Some can grow as high as four feet! But the type used in gardens and flower in displays here in Japan grow to about 60 centimeters. They come in a variety of colors. You can commonly see different shades of purple, pink and white. In the hanakotoba – the Japanese language of flowers – the meaning of the Lupin is the same as in English. It means / represents “voraciousness”, “imagination” and “always happy”.
Lupine at Shinrin Park
There are about 40,000 lupine in Shinrin Park. Shinrin Park is one of the few places around the Kanto plain that you can see such a beautiful display of the unusual flowering plant. With the result, the Lupine of Shinrin Park often feature on TV programs and in newspapers around this time of year. This year is no exception with at least two different TV channels reporting from Shinrin Park this week. They were reporting to announce the “opening” of the flowers. The Lupine will possibly feature again when they come into full bloom in around a weeks time. For the record, this year and last the Lupine (like so many other flowers) started to bloom around a week earlier than usual. Historically they bloom later in April and peak during Golden Week.
The reason I mention the TV is that is thanks to one of the features on a morning show this week that I learned something new about Lupine in Japan. Lupine are called Lupinasu in Japanese. This I knew. But what I learned is that Lupine are also sometimes called “nobori fuji” in Japanese. Nobori is one of those ambiguous Japanese words that is hard to explain in a few words. But basically for the purpose of this article it can be translated as “up”. Fuji as in Wisteria (which is also in bloom in Saitama right now). So a wisteria blooming upward. True enough if you take a photo of a mauve colored lupine and turn it upside down it does look very similar to wisteria.
Other flowers in bloom in April in Shinrin Park
The lupine are not the only large flower display in Shinrin Park right now. The main flower display currently is the Icelandic Poppies. The 700,000 Icelandic Poppies are about a ten minute walk from the Lupine in the “Undo Hiroba”. The “Undo Hiroba” is beside Japan’s largest air trampoline. It is about half way between the west and central gates of the park. Near the West gate there is another large display of flowers: nemophila. There are about 100,000 nemophila in bloom from around mid April to early May.
A half day cycle plan
Due to my kid’s school schedule I only had about two hours at Shinrin Park yesterday, Friday April 16th. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to walk between each of the three main flower displays. So what I did (and I love to do in Shinrin Park) is rent a bike. It costs 420 yen to rent a bike for three hours. I rented from the bike center at the central gate. The rental center is right by the gate so I find it the most convenient. You can’t cycle just anywhere; there is a whole (beautifully done) cycle course within the park. Along the way there are various bicycle parking areas so you can park your bike and go on to your destination by foot.
The cycle course
Another reason I like to rent from the central gate of Shinrin park is because the route is harder going from the central gate to the west area of the park (and the south area too). There are steep hills in different sections on the route. On the way back there is only a couple of places where there is an incline, but it is much gentler. I prefer to get the physical exertion out of the way on the way and enjoy an easier ride on the way back!
West Cycling Center
After getting my bike from the central gate bike rental center I went straight to the furthest away display: the nemophila near the West gate. It looks close on the map, but you have to follow the cycling route. Unfortunately, I have no idea how long it took me. I thought Google Fit was recording my movement, but unfortunately it didn’t record it accurately. The West Cycling center is right by the nemophila so it is very convenient. You can park and lock your bike right by the display. The key has the number of your bike on it, which is displayed clearly on the basket of the bike. Which trust me is just as well as there are dozens of identical bikes! The West Cycling Center is also the bicycle parking closest to the adventure course play ground and the wading pool.
After taking about hundred shots of the nemophila it was back on ‘my’ bike and on to the next location. To view the Icelandic poppies. From the west gate you head toward the central gate on the cycling route. It is all very clearly marked in Japanese. There is also some English information. Along the route there is a rest area called parking area 2, which is the bicycle parking area closest to the poppies. The poppies are around a ten minute walk from the bicycle parking area. It is a very pleasant walk that involves walking over a picturesque suspension bridge. There are some mountain azalea to admire along the way! The walking route brings you out by the shop close to Japan’s largest air trampoline. The poppies are just past that mountain shaped trampoline of sorts.
The next and last bicycle stop for me with little time left to spare was parking 5 beside the “stream plaza”. The stream plaza is another water play area the park added around 2018. The lupine are a one minute walk from that bicycle parking area. There are also some hanadaikon and Christmas roses in bloom beside the lupine. I really wanted to go onto parking 8-1 for the Herb garden, to see some bank roses and even more flowers. There was time left on my bike rental, but I had to get back for my daughter’s class participation day! So in theory if you are used to cycling you would probably have time to add a stop there.
I had every intention of putting in rough estimates of how long it takes between parking areas, but unfortunately it wasn’t until I got home that I realized Google Fit (on my Android anyway) is very buggy and it didn’t record my movement accurately. All I can tell you that it took me less than two hours round trip including time spent walking from the bicycle parking areas AND photographing the flowers. I tend to take about 20 to 30 minutes generally snapping pictures, so the time on the bike was probably only about 30 to 40 minutes in total! It is a very convenient way to see different parts of Shinrin Park when you don’t have a lot of time.
Shinrin Park Information
There is already tons of information on Shinrin Park on this blog, so if you want more general information about the park I recommend this post. Basic information and map hereafter:
|Address:||Central Gate: 1920 Yamata, Namegawa, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0802|
|Hours:||9.30 am to 5 pm (4 pm in winter)|
|Cost:||450 park entry fee for adults. 650 yen for car parking.|
Bike rental: 420 yen (adult) / 270 yen (child) for 3 hours | 530 yen (adult) / 320 yen (child) for a full day
Information in English
|Access:||Bus from Shinrin Koen station on the Tobu Tojo line|
Bus from JR Kumagaya Station bound for Shinrin Koen Station