See the national butterfly of Japan in its natural habitat
It’s amazing what you learn when you spend your days out and about exploring your adopted second home. Who knew that the Great Purple Emperor “Oomurazaki” Butterfly is the national butterfly of Japan? I didn’t and wouldn’t have, had it not been for our serendipitous visit to the free butterfly park in Ranzan.
We went to see the famous cherry blossoms of Ranzan twice over the spring break. One time we were too early to see them in their full glory, so we ended up scouting the area instead. On this escapade we happened upon Cho No Sato Park. A butterfly and insect park near to the acclaimed Ranzan cherry blossom avenue.
Cho means butterfly. Sato means village or homeland. Cho No Sato Park in Ranzan is referred to in English as the village of butterflies (or the homeland of butterflies) park.
The National Butterfly Of Japan
I had no idea we had a butterfly park in Ranzan, but by all accounts it is very well known among the botanist and lepidopterologist communities. Hundreds if not thousands of butterfly enthusiasts purposefully make the journey to rural Ranzan annually.
The reason for its pre-eminence: a chance to catch a glimpse of Japan’s national butterfly. As the butterfly park in Ranzan is one of only a few places in Kanto that you can see the Great Purple Emperor “Oomurazaki” in its natural habitat.
Another thing we learned from our excursion is that the Great Purple Emperor needs enoki (hackberry) trees to survive. One of the reasons that the Great Purple Emperor butterfly is so rare in nature these days is due to the lack of enoki trees. Many have been intentionally cut down, possibly due to the great height they reach.
Butterflies, Insects, Beetles and Fireflies
Apart from the Purple emperor, there are several other butterflies you can see in the park, if you time it right. The best time to visit is in summer, particularly June when you can see the fireflies and beetles in the area too.
Please note that this park is only for viewing, capturing is strictly forbidden.
Right now (April 2019) all you can see is caterpillars. As they are so small, you will probably need some guidance to find them. But there are also many other insects native to the area, so with cautious exploring you’re sure to find some creepy crawlies in the woods.
There is a center house which has various displays and information. At the moment 99% of the information is in the Japanese language only, but there are quite a lot of visual displays too. And a volunteer guide is on site at all times to direct you and answer any questions you might have. Again, they mainly speak Japanese only, but they can explain with pictures and gestures.
The park is quite nice to walk around even if you see no insects at all. It is part of a larger nature reserve. The park is divided by a road, but you can walk through an under road tunnel to get to the far side of the park. There is no playground equipment, but there are some facilities like a rest area and public toilets.
**Please note that it is strictly forbidden to use insect nets or catch any butterfly, beetle or insect in this park**
Hours: From April to November the parking and center house is open from 8.30 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays. In the winter, the park is closed on weekdays.
Address: Senjudo, Ranzan, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0227
About a half hour walk from the Musashi Ranzan Station of the Tobu Tojo Line.
About a 7 minute drive from the Higashimatsuyama Shingo Belc on route 254. Free Parking for about 8 cars.