Iiyama's Nanohana Festival
In late April and early May, a golden carpet of flowers covers the countryside of Iiyama.
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.
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 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).
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).