Located on the coast of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture is the darling coastal town of Kawazu, renowned for its 4-kilometer long corridor of 8,000 cherry blossom trees bordering the banks of the Kawazu River during its Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival.
Blooming from early February, the trees are generally the first to bloom in all of Japan and are a wonderful sight to behold if you’re eager for sunshine and spring. Kawazu is also an easy day trip from Tokyo, making it a good option if you’re looking to get away from the crowds of Tokyo’s sakura viewing destinations. Their blooming season is roughly a month to mid-March but can be shortened if it’s rather warm and windy, which enforces the delicate beauty and rarity of Japanese sakura.
The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
These particular sakura trees are known as Kawazu-zakura and are distinguished by their dark pink, larger petals. It is thought to be the natural hybrid of “Oshima-Zakura” and “Kanhi-Zakura” and has been the official flower of Kawazu since April 1975. The original tree is a short walk from the main Namiki and is actually on the grounds of a private residence. It is over 60 years old.
Kawazu-zakura Namiki: A Pathway of Cherry Blossoms
The most popular section of the Kawazu-zakura Namiki is a short walk from Kawazu station and has a pretty paved path lined with the trees by the river. Even the short walk from the Namiki station is lined with the contrast of the pink sakura and the yellow nanohana blooms below. You will see many photographers trying to capture that elusive shot of a combination of the bright yellow of the nanohana, the soft vivid pinks of the sakura, and the vintage Izukyu Shimoda train line passing through.
A Quiet Sakura Viewing Experience Near Tokyo
If you have the time and wish a quieter experience away from crowds, walk further from the coastline and the station to see the rest of the Kawazu-zakura trees, and you can walk right by the river on the sasa grass (bamboo grass, wear closed shoes if you want to walk on there). There are a few onsen footbaths along the path, so never fear if your feet need a bit of a rest, where you can have a relaxing soak.
The town of Kawazu celebrates this beautiful season with the Kawazu-matsuri, where you can find local vendors selling delicious local produce, treats, and sweets.
How to get to Kawazu
Kawazu is an easy day trip from Tokyo, with direct trains using JR Odoriko from Shinjuku and Shibuya station (a few trains in the morning and afternoon approx 6,160 JPY) or catch the shinkansen from Tokyo to Atami and change to the Izukyu-Shimoda Line (can be a little bit cheaper or more expensive depending on the trains you take).
However, if you wish for a more leisurely exploration, there are various onsen ryokans available in the area to relax in and make it a weekend trip. One of my favorites is Hanareya Ishidaya, where you can have a villa that opens up to a terrace by the large koi pond and relax in your own outdoor private onsen. An absolutely perfect way to end the day after some cherry blossom viewing.