With the recent hype about Mie’s ninja museums (伊賀流忍者博物館) and trick houses, you may be lured to go out of your way just to catch a glimpse of these innovative and fun attractions. Yet, another thing you need to know is that beyond shinobis (ninjas) and shurikens, Mie (三重) has another ace up its sleeve as far as the list of places you should visit is concerned. A place that is practically straight out of a dreamland with its magnificent flowers, dazzling illuminations, and invigorating onsen (hot springs) is Nabana no Sato (なばなの里).
So what exactly makes this place so enchanting that it will make you want it on your must-visit list? Here are the top three things that make it so!
If you are one of those people who takes delight in appreciating the beauty of nature, then this place is definitely for you! Stroll around the botanical garden and gaze at probably one of the most breathtaking rows of flowers you will ever see. Nabana no Sato’s Begonia Garden offers a spectacular view of a myriad of begonia flowers placed not only around the garden but also on the ceiling!
As you enter, you will be greeted by hundreds of begonia flowers of all colors – some of them potted, whereas some are hanging. Certain spots were also specially made for people to take photographs at, with benches and life-sized fancy picture frames nicely put up for you to take a snap and capture the picturesque view. A commemorative picture booth is also available where you can take group pictures with your friends and loved ones and have them developed in an instant.
In the heart of the garden lies a cozy café where you can sit around as you admire the begonias while sipping coffee or enjoying a melon soda. There is also a wide pond near the café where you can drop the fallen flowers, letting them float swiftly, and allowing yourself to make the place even more glorious than it already is.
Outside the garden, you can also see landscapes of thousands of different flowers in all shapes and sizes. The flowers they showcase vary depending on the season, such as a sea of tulips accompanied with bright cherry blossoms during spring. With this, you can expect at least four different sceneries each year. The flowers were also carefully arranged to form different figures, ranging from flags to popular anime characters. During the Winter Illumination season, the figures formed on the landscape is related to the theme of the illumination display.
Another equally – or perhaps even more – well-sought attraction of the place is the Winter Illumination. Despite being dubbed as a “Winter Illumination,” the attraction is actually not limited during the winter season. The attraction runs from the middle of October until early May of the following year.
With millions of sparkling lights cascaded all over tunnels and ponds strategically placed to highlight the stunning reflection of the lighted flowers and trees, it is definitely something you would not want to miss! Through the tunnels stretching from 100 to 200 meters, you can experience the illumination up close while being surrounded by colorful flower-shaped LED lights. You can also view the illumination in a much better angle by riding the Island Fuji – a moving platform shaped like the famous Mt. Fuji.
To top it off, an animated display of lights is repeatedly shown throughout the night. Just like the figures formed on the flower landscapes, the animated display is anchored on the theme for the season. For the latest Winter Illumination they held in 2015, they featured Heidi, Girl of the Alps. A video of Heidi frolicking in the mountains with Peter was shown in a gigantic illumination! How cool is that?
After minutes or even hours of strolling around the gardens, you can take a plunge into the warm and invigorating onsen. After a refreshing bath, you may also sit around and relax at the waiting area while enjoying a cup of tea, free of charge!
If you feel like visiting Nabana no Sato after reading this, see the information below for further details:
Address: 270 Komae Urushibata, Nagashima-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture 511-1144
Phone: 0594-41-0787 *Japanese only
Opening hours: 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
As for tickets during the Winter Illumination, it costs 2,300 yen for elementary school students and above which includes vouchers for 1,000 yen that you can use inside the park. For the rest of the year, entrance costs 1,600 yen.
Please note, however, that entrance to Begonia Garden, Island Fuji, and the onsen are charged separately. Adult rates for the said attractions cost 1,000 yen, 500 yen, and about 500 yen, respectively.
Whenever people plan to visit Japan, they usually fill their itineraries with tours in much more famous prefectures such as Tokyo (東京), Kyoto (京都), and Osaka (大阪). Of course, those prefectures are not famous for nothing; they are indeed worth the time and money. However, if we would really want to explore Japan at its fullest, I think we should give other prefectures a chance as well, and not be limited by the favorites.
These days, Mie is slowly gaining more popularity thanks to its novel idea of using ninja-themed attractions to lure tourists, but know that Mie has more to offer other than those.
Flower viewing may sound commonplace in Japan, especially during springtime, but flower viewing AND seeing illumination at the same time are certainly not. Looking at flowers in landscapes and in a sea of lights will take your flower viewing experience to a whole new level.
The onsen may sound daunting to non-Japanese natives who are not exactly used to bathing in communal baths, but if you were to give it a shot, it is actually quite refreshing and surprisingly not that embarrassing. My onsen experience actually provided a deeper sense of experience of the Japanese culture.
With landscapes of flowers, creative illuminations, and an onsen, what more can you ask? So next time you book a plane ticket to Japan and spend hours deciding on your itinerary, make sure to include Nabana no Sato on your must-visit list!
Nabana no Sato Website *Japanese only