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Who doesn’t dream of going for a walk under the cherry blossoms in Japan and having a picnic with friends and family under the flowerage? However, you can’t always schedule your trip to Japan at the perfect time, and even so, the popular tourist destinations are very crowded around this time of the year. An alternative is to catch the early cherry blossoms that can be seen as early as February. Here we introduce you to two cherry blossom-viewing places you shouldn’t miss in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture, Kanagawa.

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When do the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan?

The cherry blossoms are usually found in central Japan between late March and mid-April. Depending on the region and the weather conditions in a certain year, the flowering period can also shift.

In Japan, the first cherry blossom forecasts for the country are often presented in mid-January. The blooming period spans several months, from January to May, as it crosses from Okinawa to Kyushu over the mainland to the north of Hokkaido because of the varying temperatures in each region. There are also different types of flowers. The main flowering time is quite similar in popular places like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima.

cherry blossoms in Japan
Mount Fuji and the Chureido Pagoda in Japan

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Kawazu-sakura: The early cherry blossoms

Even though Kanagawa Prefecture is located in central Japan — right next to Japan’s capital Tokyo — you can find cherry blossoms there as early as February. This is due to the slightly different weather conditions, but mainly because of the variety of cherry trees planted in these places.

Usually, it is the kawazu-sakura (河津桜), also written as kawazu-zakura. These come from the same-named town of Kawazu in Shizuoka Prefecture, where 8,000 of these trees bloom every February. The flowers of this variety stand out in particular because of their pink color. They are also known to be in bloom for almost a month.

The blossoms of Kawazu-Sakura start blooming as early as February.

Cherry Blossom Festival at Miura Kaigan

Miura Kaigan (三浦 海岸) is located on a peninsula in the south of Kanagawa Prefecture. From Tokyo, the train ride takes about an hour and a half, depending on where you start. The cherry blossom festival typically takes place from mid to late February. The exact dates will be announced in advance on the official website of Miura City.

As soon as you leave the station, you immediately enter the festival site because the first cherry trees and food stalls are right in front of the train station. More than 1,000 kawazu sakura trees stand along the route of just over a kilometer from Miura Kaigan Station to Komatsugaike Park (小松 ケ 池 公園). There are also food stalls and pretty lanterns that conjure up a unique spring-like atmosphere.

In addition to the cherry trees, the rapeseed blossoms also bloom at this time, which forms a wonderful contrast with their intense yellow color to the pink cherry blossoms. Normally it only takes about 15 minutes to walk from the train station to the park, but if you take a look at the flowers and take photos, you can spend a lot more time there.

A famous photo motif is the trains of the Keikyu line together with the cherry blossoms. As soon as a train approaches, the photographers gather on the bridge above the tracks to get a good photo.

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How to get to Miura Kaigan Cherry Blossom Festival

From Tokyo, Miura Kaigan can be reached by the Keikyu Line. It stops at Shinagawa station, and Yokohama station, among others. From Shinagawa, the journey takes about 70 minutes and costs 870 yen. The festival starts right before the train station and is free to enter.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Matsuda

Another cherry blossom festival in Kanagawa Prefecture during February is found in Matsuda City (松田 市). The sites for this event are the Nishihirabatake Park and the Matsudayama Herb Garden, located on Mount Matsuda. You can already see the pink flowerage on the mountain slopes from the train station.

On Mount Matsuda, you will find countless cherry trees, which mostly bloom from mid-February to mid-March. The exact date of the festival is announced each year on the city’s official website. Here you also can find a page with information in English. Such as at Miura Kaigan, there are partly yellow rapeseed flowers, which form a nice contrast.

However, this spot is mainly popular because you can see Mount Fuji during clear weather and take photos of it together with the cherry blossoms. Whether the shy mountain shows up depends on your luck. But even without it, you have a fantastic view of the city.

The Cherry Blossom Festival admission in Matsuda costs 200 yen per person (16 years and older) and takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the festival period. From 5 p.m., the cherry blossoms are illuminated, which creates an extraordinary atmosphere.

There is also a restaurant and other dining options on the mountain. Perfect for the festival, they even serve sakura mochi ice cream. The ride on the small “choo-choo” train is particularly popular with children.

Those who feel like hiking a little further up the mountain will find the Aguri Park (あぐりパーク嵯峨山苑). There are numerous early cherry blossoms, plum, and peach blossoms in white and yellow colors. Admission for this costs another 300 yen, but it is a good opportunity to escape the crowds that go to the cherry blossom festival, especially on weekends.

The city of Matsuda has decided to cancel the Cherry Blossom Festival in 2021 due to the current situation, but it will continue in the coming years.

After visiting the cherry blossom festival in Matsuda, which takes about half a day, you can also see other attractions, including the castle in Odawara. At this time, the plum trees are mostly in bloom there.

How to get to Matsuda

Matsuda is connected to both the JR Gotemba Line and the Odakyu Line. From Tokyo, however, the Odakyu line is recommended, which can be used from Shinjuku. The express train takes about 90 minutes and costs 790 yen. The Romance car is a little faster and costs 1,490 yen.

From Matsuda Station, you can walk to Nishihirabatake Park, taking about 25 minutes, and it is mostly uphill. Alternatively, a shuttle bus will take you to your destination in a few minutes.

The cherry blossom season in Japan is a highlight every year. If you’re in Japan in mid-February or early March, don’t miss checking out these spots in Kanagawa Prefecture!

Claudia Mitsubori

Claudia Mitsubori

Grown up in the middle of Germany, I made several trips to Japan since 2010, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Western Tokyo since October 2016 with my Japanese husband and our cute cat. I love traveling, food (especially sweets), learning more about Japanese traditions, Japanese music and everything related to cats. I am looking forward to share my experiences with you!

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