In Japan, cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese) hold a special significance and are closely tied to the country's culture. The blossoming of the cherry trees in spring is considered a symbol of the fleeting nature of life, and the blooms are deeply associated with the concept of "mono no aware," which is a sense of wistful sadness at the transience of things.
The annual blooming of cherry blossoms, which typically takes place between late March and early April, is a highly anticipated event in Japan and is celebrated with various festivals and events, such as hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties, where people gather to picnic under the blossoming trees.
Did you know that you can actually see cherry blossoms even earlier than March? The “kawazuzakura” are an early blooming type of sakura which bloom in early February and are one of the first signs of the approaching spring.
What are kawazuzakura?
Kawazu-zakura, also known as "winter cherry blossoms," are a unique cultivar of cherry blossom that typically appear as early as February, allowing for an early round of hanami (cherry blossom viewing).The kawazu-zakura is characterized by its striking, crimson-pink, five-petal flowers – they are much pinker than the regular cherry blossom trees that bloom in March.
They take their name from the town of Kawazu in Shizuoka Prefecture, where they were first discovered. A resident of the town found a seedling of the tree in 1955 and planted it. When it bloomed several years later, it was revealed to be a hybrid of two other types of cherry trees, resulting in the discovery of a brand new cultivar of cherry blossom.
When do kawazuzakura bloom?
Not only does kawazu-zakura bloom earlier than most cherry blossom varieties, but its blooming period also lasts much longer. The cherry blossom season in Japan is known for its short duration, as most sakura trees only bloom for a brief time, some as short as a week. In contrast, the kawazu-zakura's bright pink flowers typically remain in bloom for at least a month, starting in February and continuing until the beginning of March.
Where can I see kawazuzakura?
There are several places within Tokyo where you can see kawazuzakura, such as Shinjuku Gyoen, or Inokashira Park. The best places to see this type of cherry blossom are outside of Tokyo however, with several festivals being held to celebrate the dawn of spring.
If you're looking to see kawazuzakura cherry blossoms on a day trip from Tokyo, there are several nearby locations that are easily accessible by train. Some popular options include:
As the name of the cultivar suggest, the town of Kawazu in Shizuoka prefecture is where the Kawazuzakura was first discovered. The town is famous for its cherry blossoms, with over 8,000 trees lining the streets and riverbanks. There's also a famous festival that held annually called the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, which is held every year in February.
Our guide to the BEST place to see the early sakura – Kawazu
The annual Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in the city of Kawazu, located on the Izu Peninsula, between early February and early March. The festival attracts almost two million visitors annually and is the most famous spot to see these early blossoms near Tokyo. The Kawazu Cherry Trees were first discovered in Kawazu in the 1950s, and were then planted across the city along the Kawazu River. The first ever Kawazu Cherry Tree, planted by Iida Katsumi in 1955, can be found in the front yard of the house where he used to reside. The original tree remains to this day.
The festival takes place along the banks of the Kawazu River, which is adorned with seemingly endless rows of Kawazu Cherry Trees stretching for approximately 4km. The cherry blossoms in the town centre typically start to bloom first, before the pink glory eventually reaches as far as the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls.
Visitors can find numerous festival stalls that line the walking path along the river offering a wide selection of food, souvenirs, and local produce. Visitors can also purchase small Kawazu Cherry Trees to take home and plant. The yellow rape blossoms which bloom at the same time as the Kawazu Cherry Trees add to the beautiful scenery. During the festival, night illuminations are held from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
In addition to being known for its cherry blossom festival, Kawazu is also famous for its hot spring (onsen) town. Visitors can find many hot spring facilities near the festival venues. Along the row of cherry blossom trees, there are three footbath facilities: Hosen Footbath, Sakura Footbath, and Saburo Kawazu's Footbath, where visitors can relax and enjoy the cherry blossoms at the same time.
How to get there?
Take the Odoriko limited express train on the Izukyu Railway Line and it will directly take you to JR Kawazu station. The festival is conveniently located near Kawazu Station on the Izukyu Railway Line. Visitors can easily access the festival by exiting the station and will be greeted immediately by festival stalls and Kawazu Cherry Trees.
When is it on this year?
The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 will be held from February 1 to 28.
The Matsuda Cherry Blossom Festival is gaining popularity for its picturesque views of Mount Fuji and its proximity to Tokyo. The festival takes place at Nishihirabatake Park, which is situated on a hilltop, and features two main locations: (1) the Matsudayama Herb Garden, and (2) Aguri Park Sagayamaen. Children will especially like this location as it has train rides and two giant slides down the hill. You can also pick or buy fresh mandarins (mikan)!
A picturesque row of 1000 Kawazu-zakura cherry trees can be found along the Keikyu rail line near the Miura Peninsula. The best spot to view them is from an overpass which is marked on the map (available at the train station). This location is particularly popular for train watching, as visitors can see the cherry trees in full bloom alongside passing trains from an elevated viewpoint.
The cherry trees are situated about a 10-minute walk from Miura-kaigan Station. Along the way, you can also stop by the Komatsugaike Pond, where you will find more cherry trees and lots of people picnicking.
In comparison to the larger Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, the Miura festival is on a smaller scale and can be seen in just an hour or two. It takes around an hour to reach from Tokyo, making it a convenient option for those short on time but still wanting to see the early blooming kawazu-zakura.
Lining a 3km stretch of the Aogehori River are kawazuzakura. This area doesn't hold a big festival like the other locations, so this makes it a much quieter and more peaceful option. This also means that there are no food stalls though, so packing a picnic is recommended. Be sure to check out the best spots - Miyamae Bridge (near Washinomiya Station) and the Washinomiya Water Pipe.
All of these locations can be reached by train from Tokyo within 1-3 hours and the peak blooming of kawazuzakura cherry blossoms usually from late April to early May. It's always a good idea to check the cherry blossom forecast in advance to make sure you will be able to see the blossoms at their peak.
Article courtesy : OMAKASE Tour https://omakase-tour.com/