Spring Flowers in the Japanese Countryside: the Iiyama Nanohana Festival

May 2nd, 2018 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

The flowers grow high enough to make a veritable maze of yellow.

As the cherry blossoms fade away, other flowers take the spotlight around Nagano. In Iiyama, nanohana blossoms cover the fields along the Chikuma River, turning everything a sunny yellow.

The annual Nanohana Festival is held during the latter part of Golden Week, this year from May 3rd to 5th, during which there are musical and dance performances and plenty of activities to enjoy. It all takes place at the Nanohana Park in Iiyama City on the far side of the Chikuma River. The park is located on a small hill and has great views of the surrounding countryside. The Sekida mountains were mostly bare of snow this year, but as the clouds cleared we could see the brilliant white visage of Mt. Myoko in the distance.

Mt. Myoko peeks over the Sekida mountains in the distance.

The park sits on a hill overlooking the fields along the Chikuma River.

The nanohana flowers aren’t planted only in the park itself, but in fields all around Iiyama and along the roads as well. As the Nanohana Festival becomes more popular, the flowers appear in greater numbers across the valley.

The yellow flowers contrast beautifully with the greens and blues of spring. Some snow still remains on the mountains as well!

Photographers flock to the park for photos of the flowers and mountains.

The Nanohana are in peak bloom during Golden Week and will taper off as we approach mid-May. By June, most of the snow will have melted from the nearby mountains and the Shin’etsu Trail will be open for hiking. The Shin’etsu Shizenkyo Activity Center and Mori no Ie lodge also offer guided activities (and the former offers equipment rentals as well).

Nanohana flowers are called Rapeseed in English and are related to the plant used to make Nozawana.

The flowers are beginning to bloom along the shores of Lake Hokuryu.

Between Iiyama and Nozawa is heart-shaped Lake Hokuryu, whose nanohana were still in early bloom when I visited. You can ride swan boats on the lake while looking at the yamazakura cherries, peach blossoms, and nanohana on the shore. There is also a trekking route up to the top of neighboring Mt. Kosuge (may still have snow until mid to late May).

Other things to do in Iiyama

Iiyama’s temple town streets and vast countryside are best explored by bicycle. You can rent a bicycle from the Shin’etsu Shizenkyo Activity Center in Iiyama Station, or better yet, take a guided tour. The area is popular with cyclists due to the relatively flat terrain (and nearby mountains for the masochistic ones).

Visit the village of Kosuge to see its many temples and shrines. You can see beautiful views of the mountains from the hillside. Where the village meets the forest is a trailhead to the Kosuge Okusha shrine. The hour-long trek passes through tall cedar trees, streams, and impressive rockfaces. The path has poor footing in some areas, so proper footwear and hiking experience is recommended.

Take an outdoor wilderness tour with Nabekura Kogen’s Mori no Ie lodge.

How do I get around Iiyama?

During the Nanohana Festival, special buses run between Iiyama Station, Togari Onsen, Nozawa Onsen, and the Nanohana Park. Kosuge Village can also be reached via the Kosuge no Sato bus stop. See the timetable below for more information.

By bicycle, the park is approximately 30 minutes away from Iiyama Station. From the park, Kosuge Village is about 20 to 25 minutes (uphill).

Iiyama Nanohana BusLate April to early May 2018Original Timetable Here
To Nanohana Park 1st 2nd* 3rd* 4th 5th* 6th** 7th 8th** 9th* 10th 11th** 12th* 13th 14th
Iiyama Station 9:10 10:10 10:50 11:30 11:50 12:50 13:35 14:40 15:15 16:30
Takahashi Mayumi Doll Museum 10:15 11:35 12:55 14:45
Nanohana Park 9:34 10:30 11:00 11:14 11:50 12:00 12:14 13:00 13:10 13:59 14:00 15:00 15:39 16:54
Kosuge no Sato 10:40 12:00 13:20 15:10
Lake Hokuryu 10:45 12:05 13:25 15:15
Nozawa Onsen 9:48 11:28 12:28 14:13 15:53 17:08
Nozawa Grand Hotel 9:53 11:33 12:33 14:18 15:58 17:13
Michi no Eki Hana no Eki Chikumagawa 11:10 12:10 13:10 14:10
Togari Onsen 11:20 12:20 13:20 14:20
To Iiyama Station 1st 2nd 3rd* 4th** 5th 6th 7th** 8th 9th* 10th** 11th** 12th 13th* 14th** 15th 16th*
Togari Onsen 11:20 12:20 13:20 14:20 15:20
Michi no Eki Hana no Eki Chikumagawa 11:30 12:30 13:30 14:30 15:30
Nozawa Grand Hotel 9:05 10:10 11:45 12:45 14:30 16:20
Nozawa Onsen 9:06 10:11 11:46 12:46 14:31 16:21
Lake Hokuryu 10:50 12:10 13:30 15:20 16:20
Kosuge no Sato 10:55 12:15 13:35 15:25 16:25
Nanohana Park 9:19 10:24 11:05 11:40 11:59 12:25 12:40 12:59 13:45 13:40 14:40 14:44 15:35 15:40 16:34 16:35
Takahashi Mayumi Doll Museum 11:20 12:40 14:00 15:50 16:50
Iiyama Station 9:48 10:53 11:25 12:28 12:45 13:28 14:05 15:13 15:55 17:03 16:55

11 Responses to “Spring Flowers in the Japanese Countryside: the Iiyama Nanohana Festival

  1. Hello Blair,
    Thank you for the blog.
    I live in the UK and am travelling to Liyama at the 2nd half of next month for 2 weeks
    I am a knee walker, I am looking to find out what events will be hold in Nagano during the period
    Any suggestions?
    Thank you

  2. Hi there,

    There aren’t many big events in Nagano during June. It will most likely be rainy season from early or mid June to early July as well.

    You can find more information about what to do in Iiyama on their official English-language tourism website.

    If you have any other questions about Nagano, please let me know.


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  6. Dear Blair,
    Thank you so much for sharing this lovely article.

    My friends and I are doing self drive and we shall be in Hirugami Onsen on Apr 27, 2019 – to see the Peach Blosom Road at National Route 256 . I am wondering during this timing what are the chances of seeing a sea of yellow flowers like the above in Nanohana. Base on the Nagano website we also read that end of April to early May we may able to see cherry blossom along Chikuma River. If is possible then we shall detour from Achi village to here. We are putting up a night in Azumino and going for the Alpine Route the following day.

  7. Hi there,

    This year has been quite warm so far so I believe that the nanohana flowers will also bloom early. If that’s that case, you should be able to see similar views to the pictures above at the end of April. The cherry blossoms along the Chikuma River near Obuse should also be in bloom around that time (called Chikumagawa Teibo no Sakura). You can see our Latest News page for details.

    Let me know if I can help with anything else!


  8. Dear Blair,

    I think my post which I send out 10 days ago may not have reached you. First of all would like to thank you for your speedy response on Mar 13.

    Appreciate if you could provide us the map code or “setting” for our car GPS to reach the following sites

    1) Chikuma River to view the cherry blossoms

    2)Nanohana Park in liyama to view the yellow flowers

    3) Azumino, Mt Hikarujo 光城山 ” dragon rising in the sky ” the car park –
    By the way if we reach the top by 6pm will it be too dark for us to trek down.. is there any lightings.

    We shall be visiting these sites on Apr 28, can’t wait to be there..

    Is there any websites where we can check on the status / progress of the flower blooming , we are very eager to know ?


  9. Hi cypg,

    I’ve included map codes to the places you asked for below:

    Chikuma River (Teibo no Sakura) Parking Lot: 54 411 886*00
    Iiyama Nanohana Park: 293 169 579*00
    Iiyama Nanohana Park (nearby parking lot): 293 169 831*52
    Mt. Hikarujo Parking Lot: 158 262 104*36

    During the festival period, several parking lots are open for Iiyama’s Nanohana Park. You may be asked to park in a particular area. If not, you can use the parking lot attached to the map code above.

    There will be nightly illuminations at Mt. Hikarujo from April 19th to May 4th, 2019. The illuminations begin at 7pm and end at 11pm. On the 28th, the sun will set around 6:30pm, so you may want a flashlight if you plan to be at the top between 6:30 and 7:00.

    You can see up-to-date bloom information on this page.

    I hope that helps!


  10. Hi Blair,

    Thank you for the providing map codes , you have been very helpful.

    Base on the link you share , I notice that there are 2 sites of Chikuma River one in Obuse & another in Liyama . The Liyama – is currently at peak stage, but the one in Obuse hasn’t started to bloom.

    May I know the map code you provided for Chikuma River is under which town Obuse / Liyama?
    Chikuma River (Teibo no Sakura) Parking Lot: 54 411 886*00
    Base on the cherry blossom report – unfortunately we won’t be able to see the one in Obuse..

    We are thinking of going for Shirojiri City Hall , Kojin Mountain Park in Tatsuno & Mt Hikarujo which at the moment is stated as “Peak” . Our date is on Apr 28 – do you think we still be able to catch it..

    Thank You & Best Regards

  11. Hi Cypg,

    The Chikuma River Teibo no Sakura is located in Obuse. While its Yaezakura have not blossomed yet, its weeping cherries, Somei Yoshino cherries, and hanamomo are in bloom now. The park should be looking great on the 28th. See pictures from yesterday here.

    Other places that I would recommend on the 28th include Oide Koen in the Hakuba Valley, Mt. Hikarujo in Azumino, and Omachi Park in Omachi City. You could even visit them all in the same day, starting in Hakuba and working your way down to Azumino. Also, the Hakuba Mountain Harbor terrace will have just opened for the spring season, so I recommend taking a look if you’ll be there on the 28th.

    The cherry trees in Kojin Mountain Park have passed their peak and the petals are now falling. On the 28th, many of the cherries trees will have lost much of their blossoms, but there are some Yaezakura trees which will be in bloom then. If you plan on traveling to Tatsuno, I also recommend visiting the flower road (between Miyaki Station and Tatsuno Junior High School) as it has a 200-meter tunnel of cherry trees that should be in bloom then.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!


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