Translated by Jasmine O
Kawazu Sakura Festival - View The Cherry Blossoms Early!
Written by Shinji Takaramura
Cherry blossoms come in early spring in Kawazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. Travel to the seaside to the annual Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival to see sakura, try cherry blossom treats, and celebrate the season. The 2020 festival is from February 10 to March 10.
A Festival Welcoming the Cherry Blossom Season
Kawazu is famous for its early cherry blossoms that shroud the townscape and riverbanks in delicate pink during mid-February and mid-March. The flowers are commemorated with the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, held around the peak bloom season each year.
As this is one of the earliest cherry blossom events in Japan, the festival attracts many visitors with rows of lovely blooming cherry trees, nighttime illuminations, and food stalls. Located in Shizuoka Prefecture, visitors can conveniently access the flowers from Tokyo via train, making it ideal for a day trip.
Kawazu-zakura: Elegant and Hardy Cherry Blossoms
Kawazu-zakura is a special type of cherry blossom that blooms around early February, earlier than other species most people are familiar with (like the classic Yoshino cherry). The flower's name comes from the region it was founded in--Kawazu, a town by the coast of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka.
On top of their early blossoms, these flowers a last long time before they wither, generally staying in bloom for around one month. The warm coastal climate is ideal for the flowers, allowing them to thrive.
Kawazu-zakura are a shade darker and brighter than Yoshino cherries, creating a truly beautiful contrast with the blue sky on sunny days. It is no wonder why these flowers became so popular and grew in this region.
Pink and Yellow Flower Tunnels
The first thing you will notice about at the festival are the vivid pink cherry blossoms and bright yellow rapeseed flowers. After exiting Kawazu Station on the Izu Kyuko Line, you will be immediately welcomed by the colorful flora. Cross the street to find beautiful rapeseed flowers blooming just below the cherry trees. This spectacular scenery will put you in a cheerful, spring mood and is worth seeing in-person.
Continue along the path for a few more minutes from the train station to reach the Kawazu River, where the walkways are shaded by the pink hues. This scenery is iconic and ideal for taking beautiful photos.
Gorgeous Evening Light Ups
Picture from Cherry Blossoms And The Starry Sky! A February Trip To Shizuoka
Nighttime cherry blossom viewing is also an activity many people enjoy annually. At the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, certain areas are illuminated in the evening, creating a truly magical atmosphere. In 2019, the light-up period was between February 20 and March 3, from 18:00 to 21:00. For more information on the festival, please view the official website (Japanese).
Cute and Delicious Sakura Treats to Try
In addition to taking photos, make sure to indulge in some flavorful cherry blossom-themed desserts and snacks by the riverside. The vendors here sell freshly-made Japanese sweets like mochi and taiyaki, and local seafood like unagi (eel). There are also many shops selling cherry blossom-themed souvenirs that would make thoughtful gifts.
Mochi Dango: A Creative, Traditional Hanami Sweet
The first thing we tried was anko- (red bean paste) filled mochi (daifuku mochi) on a skewer. This sweet is inspired by traditional hanami (cherry blossom viewing) dango. Normally, the mochi is small and does not contain red bean paste.
Each daifuku mochi was flavored differently according to the color. The light pink color has a slightly-tart cherry blossom taste, and the green color is yomogi (Japanese mugwort), which has an earthy, unique taste. The light yellow daifuku on the bottom is a refreshing citrus flavor.
This is delicious but filling, so we recommend sharing it with a travel partner. Don't forget to take a picture by the cherry trees before you take a bite.
Pink Taiyaki: A Must-Try Seasonal Dessert!
This pink, cherry blossom-flavored taiyaki is almost too adorable to eat. Taiyaki is a common street and festival food in Japan, but the pink cherry blossom color of this pastry is very rare. The stand baking these fresh is close by to the river, located just a little bit past the main walkway to the river by the station.
The dough is fluffy, springy, and flavored with cherry blossom leaves. The result is a sweet but slightly fruity and tart flavor. A generous portion of sweet red bean paste fills the inside, making this another satisfying treat. This cute dessert is also very picturesque and shareable on social media.
Strawberry Daifuku: Special Flavors
Another seasonal dessert you can try is strawberry daifuku, which is simply a daifuku stuffed with a strawberry. This delicious combination can be found throughout Japan in winter and spring, and is available at the festival in a rainbow of different flavors and colors.
We chose the purple strawberry daifuku (pictured above), which is flavored with murasaki imo, a type of Japanese sweet potato. Its cute appearance matched well with the light pink cherry blossoms in the background. You can also choose cherry blossom if you want to have a completely cherry blossom-filled day. The mochi is fresh and blends great with the strawberry.
Unagi Onigiri: A Savory Seafood Rice Ball
For visitors craving something savory, try a grilled onigiri (rice ball) with eel. The Izu Peninsula is known for its delicious fish and seafood. One of the resulting delicacies here is unagi.
The unagi rice ball is cooked for before you as you order and is an ideal handheld-size. As it comes hot off the griddle, it will warm you up in the cool spring weather.
How to Travel to Kawazu from Tokyo
The cherry blossoms in Kawazu are located at Kawazu Station on the Izu Kyuko Line and takes around two to two and a half hours to reach from Tokyo. The fastest route is taking the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train) to Atami, and then transferring to the Odoriko, a train that follows the coastline, providing a scenic view to its riders. This takes around two hours.
Alternatively, you can ride the Odoriko the entire way without transferring, which takes a little over two and a half hours if you depart from Tokyo Station.
After arriving at Kawazu Station, the cherry blossoms will be blooming right by the station, which is decorated with charming sakura motifs.
Visit a Cherry Blossom Paradise
Kawazu is a great destination to see the cherry blossoms in Japan in early spring. These special flowers are different than other varieties and provide a chance to enjoy the sakura season at a different time than the rest of Japan. Take in the festival atmosphere in combination with the beauty of the flowers offering an unforgettable time with plenty of photo opportunities and a chance to appreciate the outdoors.