One of the most breathtaking sights of Japan are the beautiful sakura which bloom in the spring time. Ranging from hues of white, pink, and even yellow, cherry blossom season draws visitors mainly throughout the months of April and May across Japan. An exception to this is in the small town of Kawazu, where in February, early-blooming pink Kawazu-zakura are found around the town and line up the riverbanks. In my recent trip to Japan in February, it was a must to catch a glimpse of the incredibly beautiful cherry blossoms.
Kawazu is a coastal town on the east side of the Izu Peninsula, about 2 hours by train from Tokyo Station and covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The town is known for their early-blooming cherry blossoms and hot springs, making it a great day trip or overnight stay to enjoy the beauty of the town! To enjoy the town to the fullest, I would highly recommend a visit during the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival or Kawazuzakura Matsuri is held annually from early February to early March and attracts over one million visitors. During this time, visitors and locals alike admire the sakura dotted along the banks of the Kawazu River for 4km and around the town. Don’t miss the night time illuminations of the cherry blossom trees which are held throughout a portion of the festival. During the day, the main streets are lined up with festival stalls selling local produce such as fruits, green tea, dried fish, as well as delicious food like sakura taiyaki.
As the flowers are slower at blooming than other types of sakura, full bloom may not yet be in place but the trees are beautiful to view during a longer timeframe. Kawazu-zakura have big petals and are of a dark pink color, making it extremely photogenic and different from the sakura in Tokyo. The town also has several magnificent trees that are a must-see. The Original Tree of Kawazu-zakura is over 60 years old and about 10 meters high, located 15 minutes by foot north of Kawazu Station.
The town has even several Hot Spring Foot Baths that boast views of sakura! Other notable sights include the Odoriko Onsen Kaikan and Mine Onsen, which is a geyser shooting water to about 60 meters above ground. For those who are more adventurous, the scenic Seven Waterfalls are a bus ride or hike away north of the Kawazu.
I stayed overnight at the Ryokan Kokoro Nodoka just one station from Kawazu Station and enjoyed the beautiful ocean view. There was nothing better than soaking in the private outdoor hot spring and enjoying the traditional stay. A kaiseki dinner highlighted local specialties such as steamed sea bream and sashimi with fresh wasabi root. A personal favorite was the beautiful and delicious breakfast served in the morning – a perfect way to start a day of sakura viewing.
If you are visiting Japan in February or March, yet would like to catch a glimpse of sakura near Tokyo, Kawazu is the perfect day trip or overnight stay. With many hot springs, waterfalls, and local restaurants, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Do not miss your chance to see the beautiful kawazu-zakura during the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival!
Rating: 5/5 – A must see