One of the most popular times of the year for international travelers to visit Japan is when cherry blossoms are in full bloom during the spring. In general, cherry blossoms usually bloom around March, but for those of you who are visiting Japan in February, you still have a chance to see these beautiful cherry blossoms in Kawazu.
Like roses, there are different kinds of cherry blossoms. In Japan, Someiyoshino is the most well known kind of cherry blossoms, and can be seen anywhere in Japan. Kawazu sakura, though, is a kind of cherry blossom, which blooms about a month before all other cheery blossoms, and are seen in and around a town called Kawazu in Shizuoka. The Kawazu sakura has big pink flowers that are unique to them. It is considered that the Kawazu sakura was naturally mixed with two other kinds of cherry blossoms, Kanhizakura and Oshima-zakura.
Every year, the Kawazu sakura starts to bloom in February. This is because Kawazu is located in the Izu Peninsula, and is generally a lot warmer than other parts of Japan, even though it is still winter. This warm temperature makes the beautiful Kawazu sakura bloom about a month earlier than cherry blossoms in the rest of Japan. When you just look at the cherry blossoms, most people cannot tell which kind it is, but since the others do not bloom in February, you’ll know that these are the Kawazu sakura..
Visit the Kawazu cherry blossom festival
Every year, the town of Kawazu hosts a cherry blossom festival, Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, which attracts a lot of visitors. It is open to the public, and of course free, so even during weekdays the streets are filled with visitors. Last year it was held from February 10th to March 10th, and next year it will also be held during the same time. Since many international people do not know that these particular cherry blossoms bloom a month before other cherry blossoms, you do not hardly see any international visitors at this festival, but mostly Japanese.
During the month when this festival takes place, the train passing Kawazu is fully packed with tourists eager to witness the earliest sakura in Japan. Since Izukyu railway system does not run many trains all the time, you might want to prepare yourself for standing in the train all the way to Kawazu during the weeks of the festival. Despite taking these crazily packed trains going to to Kawazu, you’ll find it is definitely worth it as soon as you see the beautifully bloomed cherry blossoms when you approach Kawazu train station. As soon as you step out of the train, you are greeted by countless cherry blossoms that are neatly lined up along the streets. The most beautiful ones are seen along the river, and on both sides of the river, there are many beautiful sakura in full bloom.
Ohanami with beer, food, and Izu specialty
Japanese people love cherry blossoms historically, and there is even a word to describe a party of flower watching with beer and food called “ohanami.” Generally, very serious businessmen may tend to get loose at ohanami because of the food, alcohol, and beautiful cherry blossoms, excusing them to celebrate and be more relaxed with the sign of spring’s arrival. It is not rare to see many people under sakura trees in March all around Japan.
At the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, you will also be greeted by yummy smells left and right as soon as you step out of a train. It is still cold in February, so many street vendors provide hot drinks and food as well as Izu specialties, and a lot of great seafood. You can pick up an item or two, hold them in your hands as you walk under the tunnel of cherry blossoms, or you can find a seat in a park with others to enjoy cherry blossoms more calmly. There are also great restaurants near the festival, so if you want to treat yourself a little bit, you can get yummy local eels to have a lavish day trip to Kawazu.
You won’t miss sakura season in February!
If you are visiting Japan next year in February and are disappointed that you may miss out on the cherry blossoms by one month, you are not really missing out if you know where to visit. You can actually be the first one to catch the blooming cherry blossoms, Kawazu sakura, in Izu before anybody else has a chance to witness them.
Kawazu sakura is not all over Japan so you have to travel to Kawazu to see them, but it is definitely worth your time. By train or bus it would be a day trip if you are traveling from Tokyo, so you want to plan for a full day there, and maybe enjoy some of the hot springs after seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms in Izu. If you are flexible with your time, you definitely want to check the website to make sure you go when it is in full bloom, since there is a big difference when it is just blooming to when it is in full bloom. For those of you who may enjoy a little mystery at night by the lighting of the sakura, there is also a cherry blossom ‘light up’ during the month of the festival, so you want to check the website for the dates as well.
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