For the first time in four years the Chichibu Poppy Festival is set to go ahead. It was set to go ahead in 2021 too and then the day before the festival was due to start they had to cancel it! It is highly unlikely that will happen in 2023. Just for posterity; in both 2020 and 2022, the festival was not only cancelled, the flowers weren’t even grown.
Poppies in the Sky
The poppy festival in Chichibu is just one of many famous and acclaimed events held annually in Chichibu. The poppy sky has become one of Saitama’s most famous scenes. They are located in a farm in Saitama’s last remaining village: Higashichichibu. But the plateau where the poppies grow, known as Tenku no Poppy (天空のポピー) or “Poppies in the Sky”, straddles both Higashichichibu and Minano Town.
Each year thousands of people navigate the crowded mountain roads to witness the spectacular scene of (approximately!) ten million red shirley poppies across five hectares on the plateau. The shirley poppies typically bloom mid May to early June annually in Chichibu. Shirley Poppies are predominantly red with some pink and whites in the mix. The Tenku no Poppy plateau is in the Saitama prefectural farm Chichibu kogen farm. It is also called Chichibu Highland ranch and / or Sai no Kuni Fureai Center.
Before the pandemic, the best time to see them was the end of May to early June. However, in 2023 all flowers are early, so it may well be that the best time to see them this year will be earlier in the festival period. The festival is on from Thursday May 18th to Sunday June 4th in 2023. As of April 29th 2023, you cannot yet see any poppies. But according to the official website (linked in information section), they expect that the poppies will be at about 40 to 50% bloom when the festival starts on May 18th.
Daytrip from Tokyo
Due to the relative proximity to Tokyo, the festival draws not only domestic tourists, but international tourists too. It is a manageable daytrip from Tokyo, but there is so much to do in the area it might be worth considering staying in one of the dozens of campsites in the Chichibu area. They have cabin options too if you are not up for roughing it! Some places also rent out tents and all the equipment you need. Therefore, if you are in Japan sans camping supplies it doesn’t have to stop you experiencing camping in Japan. I will say though, that this area is best travelled by car as the land area is expansive and mountainous. Thus it is harder to get around by public transport.
Event: Poppies in the Sky 天空のポピー
Dates: Thursday May 18th to Sunday June 4th 2023
Time: 9 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4.30 pm.
Cost: The price is going up in 2023 to 500 yen. It was 300 yen in 2019, they had planned to charge 400 yen in 2021 and this year its now 500 yen! However, there is no charge for children. (It is normally free to enter the farm, but during the period of the poppies there is a fee.)
Venue: Poppy in the Sky Field, Chichibu Highland Ranch, Misawa, Minano, Chichibu District 〒369-1411. View on Google Maps.
The sky of poppies are about 21 kilometers from the Hanazono exit of the Kanetsu expressway. 「天空のポピー」(tenku no popi-)「秩父高原牧場」(chichibu kogen bokujyo)「彩の国ふれあい牧場」(sainokuni fureai bokujyo) or the phone number 0494-65-0311 in the car navi should bring up the location. There two parking lots for the farm and a separate car park for the poppies too. Please note that there is only one (windy mountainous) road in and out of the area and it gets very congested during the period of the poppies. (And also during Golden Week too.)
If you are driving to the poppies from Ogawa / Ranzan, taking route 254 to route 11, Washi no Sato is a nice place to stop. They have an outdoor food court. Moreover, you can make your own washi paper!