The quiet town of Hidaka, prefecture of Saitama, remains mostly tranquil and not noticed all year round, just located at the right distance between the turmoil of the capital and the open countryside. Yet in September it becomes a popular destination for many people who come here to admire the blooming of the higanbana, or manjushage.
Along the bend of the river Koma, a large green area extends for about 22 hectares, and every year in September, thousands (millions?) of red flowers bloom. These are called in Japanese higanbana (彼岸花) or manjushage (曼 珠 沙 華), and can be translated as “red spider lilies”. If you look closely at their shape, in fact, around the center you can see some elongated and thin petals, which make the flower look like a sort of red spider. Another common name in English is “hurricane lily”, as these flowers often bloom overnight after the heavy rains of Japan’s autumn typhoons. The scientific name is lycoris radiata.
How to get here
Kinchakuda Park is just a few minutes walk from Koma Station, on the Seibu Chichibu Line. From central Tokyo, reach Ikebukuro station, and from there, take a train bound to Seibu-Chichibu. Being a bit far away (about 90 minutes), it is better to use an express train, but pay attention to the stops, some trains will pass Koma Station.
Here you can take a look to the map of Koma Kinchakuda Park (in Japanese): http://www.kinchakuda.com/map002.html
We had already been to Koma before, as there are several options in the area for having beautiful walks in the mountains, as well as many cafes and restaurants, which offer organic menus made with fresh local ingredients (like Alishan, where we ate several times).
Along the route between the station and the park you will come across small shelves where farmers sell pumpkins, courgettes, cabbage, potatoes and other seasonal vegetables. Near them the price is shown, and you will find a box to put the coins in. A totally trust-based system! We also got some vegetables, the prices are certainly better than those of the supermarkets in central Tokyo!
Comparing to the non-flowering period, this time of the year there were very many people and, moreover, during the red higanbana wave, from mid-September, part of the park is paid (about 300 yen). Inside you will also find kiosks and stalls for the typical street food of Japanese matsuri (karaage, yakisoba, cup noodles, choco-banana and more).
Between a walk and another among the red flowers, with some friends we sat down along the river bank to enjoy a snack time with the apple pie prepared by one of our Japanese friends. Immersed in the fresh climate of mid-September, it was a pleasant day!
Finally, before going back to the city, we visited one last spot in Koma. Unfortunately it was about to close, so we could not enter in the buildings, but we appreciated the accuracy of this historical reconstruction. It is an old mansion, located a few hundred meters from the park of Kinchakuda.
As you can see, even relatively unknown places, such as Hidaka, hide small corners of wonders, among the many options you may choose between to spend a different day, away from the rumble of the capital!