One of the places in Japan that provides an otherworldly feel is Chichibu (秩父). It is a historic city embraced by mountains, lush forests, and relaxing hot springs located in Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県). Chichibu is also a popular weekend getaway for those who live in the central part of Tokyo (東京). The place has dramatic landscapes and precipitous cliffs as well as beautiful rock beds. When nighttime falls, you can head to the observation deck of Chichibu’s Minoyama Park (美の山公園) to see the area’s “sea of clouds.”
Minoyama Park opened in 1979 and is located on top of Mt. Mino (蓑山). Since it has over 10,000 cherry blossom trees, it is a famous place for cherry blossom viewing, or “hanami (花見)” in Japan, from the months of April to June.
Aside from cherry blossoms, however, there are other flowers to see in the park such as hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and lilies. There are many observation decks to choose from for you to have a beautiful view of the landscape. The area is also popular for night festivals during winter where thousands of fireworks displays cast beautiful colors against the sky.
The park has a parking space and a restroom. There’s no trash bin, though, so you have to bring your trash with you. If you get hungry, you can head to the park’s food shop.
Minoyama Park is popular for “unkai,” which is also known as “sea of clouds.” It is an atmospheric phenomenon wherein the clouds become very thick that they look like bodies of water rolling in the sky. This occurs when low air pressure passes through the mountains and the earth is cooled down by radiational cooling without any flow of air. In short, it is like a sea of fog against the backdrop of nature. The occurrence of unkai is quite rare and is visible from places located at high elevations. From that point, you can perfectly see the buildings and mountains floating like islands on the sea.
It is said that you can see unkai in Minoyama Park between the months of November and April. When cherry blossom trees start blooming in the middle of April, it adds beautiful hues to the picture which photographers take great interest in. With excellent skills, some photographers could capture the sea of clouds blending together with different colors.
On March 3, 2017, some photographers and enthusiasts shared their beautiful shots of Chichibu’s sea of clouds on Twitter:
雲海 秩父 / 2017.03.03
『SEA OF CLOUDS IN CHICHIBU』03/03/2017
— 橋塚大輔 (@HashizukaDesign) March 2, 2017
— Kazuki Sato (@kaz_55oo) March 3, 2017
— もっさん (@Naaaassom) March 3, 2017
If you want the best unkai view, you can head to the tallest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji (富士山). Nonetheless, Minoyama Park in Chichibu also offers a great view. With the blossoming of sakura in the coming weeks, it would be best to grab the opportunity to see this phenomenon before your very eyes. The beautiful blend of colors looks like a work of art, or like a picture taken out from an animated movie.
Minoyama Park is reachable within two and a half hours from Tokyo by train. Do remember to carry a camera with you so that you can capture the beautiful scenery that is surely breathtaking and upload it to your social media accounts!