Kawazu-zakura, the Early-Blooming Cherry Blossom – Where to See Them in and Around Tokyo

The kawazu-zakura tree is just one type of "sakura" (cherry blossom) tree that blooms each spring during Japan’s spectacular sakura season. Often referred to as "winter cherry blossoms," kawazu-zakura typically bloom as early as February, when most varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan are still in bud. The early blooming of the kawazu-zakura means that it’s possible to enjoy a spot of "hanami" (cherry blossom viewing) before the cherry blossom season has officially begun. In this article, we’ll tell you where you can enjoy the beautiful kawazu-zakura cherry blossom trees in and around Tokyo.


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What Sets Kawazu-Zakura Apart From Other Cherry Blossoms?

There are over a hundred different varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan, and the flowers come in a wide range of colors. The kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms are much loved for their gorgeous, crimson-pink, five-petal flowers.

The tree is named after the town of Kawazu in Shizuoka Prefecture where it was discovered. A seedling of the tree was found and planted here by a resident in 1955. When the tree bloomed several years later, it became clear that the seedling was a hybrid of two other types of cherry trees and that the town has discovered a brand new variety of sakura tree. Today, the kawazu-zakura is one of the most loved varieties of cherry blossom in Japan.

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When Do Kawazu-Zakura Cherry Trees Bloom?

As well as coming into bloom early in the year, kawazu-zakura trees also flower for much longer than almost all other cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossom season in Japan is very short, as the flowers of most sakura trees are usually only in bloom for a very brief amount of time. For some varieties of cherry blossom trees, this can even be as short as a week. However, the bright pink flowers of the kawazu-zakura tree are typically in bloom for at least a month, usually flowering from the beginning of February until around the beginning of March. This exceptionally long blooming period is another reason why the kawazu-zakura is one of the most popular cherry blossom trees in Japan. 

There are plenty of picturesque spots in and around Tokyo where you can enjoy the beautiful colors of kawazu-zakura trees during the spring. Many gardens, parks, riverbanks, and temple grounds in Tokyo are awash with the bright pink of kawazu-zakura trees come the cherry blossom season. There are also a number of beautiful areas filled with kawazu-zakura trees in more rural areas that can be enjoyed on an easy day trip from Tokyo.

Where to See Kawazu-Zakura Trees in Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Come spring, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo. This sprawling garden in the center of Tokyo has over 1,500 cherry blossom trees of many different varieties, among which are a large number of kawazu-zakura trees. The garden’s kawazu-zakura trees typically begin to bloom from mid-February. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden also has many late-blooming cherry trees called "yaezakura." These varieties usually come into flower in April, late into the cherry blossom season.

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Inokashira Park

Inokashira Park is another of Tokyo’s vast green spaces located in the trendy neighborhood of Kichijoji in the west of the city close to the Ghibli Museum. Popular all year round, the park draws a huge number of visitors each spring when people come to admire Inokashira’s wide variety of sakura trees, including kawazu-zakura. The cherry blossom trees are mostly situated around the park’s large pond and are beautifully illuminated at night. Swan boats can be rented by those who want to sail on the pond beneath the bright pink blooms. 

Toyokawa Inari Betsuin

The small Toyokawa Inari Betsuin shrine is most famous for the hundreds of inari fox statues that fill the shrine’s grounds. First built in 1887, Toyokawa Inari Betsuin is dedicated to Toyokawa Dakini-Shinten, a protective deity known for riding a white fox. Tucked away off the main street opposite the grounds of Akasaka Palace, Toyokawa Inari Betsuin’s red-bibbed foxes are framed by the bright pink blooms of the shrine’s kawazu-zakura cherry blossom trees during the spring. 

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Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park is another famous "hanami" spot in Tokyo thanks to its impressive collection of cherry blossom trees. A popular park for picnics and barbeques all year round, Yoyogi Park bursts into color during the spring thanks to the cherry blossom trees decorating the grounds. Located between Shinjuku and Shibuya and just a stone’s throw from Harajuku, there are close to 700 cherry blossom trees in Yoyogi Park. While many of these are "Somei-Yoshino" trees (one of the most common variety of cherry blossom tree in Japan), Yoyogi Park also has plenty of early blooming kawazu-zakura trees.

Kyunaka River

The Kyunaka River snakes through part of eastern Tokyo and is a popular spot for kayaking and canoeing. Along the banks of the Kyunaka River, around a 10-minute walk from Hirai Station, is a beautiful stretch of kawazu-zakura trees. With the Tokyo Skytree peeking through the trees in the distance, the kawazu-zakura trees along the Kyunaka River offer an iconic combination of traditional and modern Tokyo.

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Happo-en Garden

Happo-en is a small but historic traditional Japanese garden that today forms part of the grounds of the upscale hotel and wedding venue of the same name. The garden is over 300 years old and is filled with elements of nature typically associated with Japan. Among Happo-en’s many treasures are a selection of bonsai trees, a pond filled with colorful koi carp, and cherry blossom trees. There are 15 kawazu-zakura trees dotted around Happo-en which can be admired along with a relaxing bowl of matcha from the garden’s Japanese tea room. The kawazu-zakura trees are the centerpiece of the seasonal sakura-themed events hosted by the hotel each spring. 

Tokyo Skytree

A small but beautiful row of kawazu-zakura trees can be seen along the Kitajukken River next to the Tobubashi Bridge at the foot of the Tokyo Skytree each spring. The contrast between the iconic, modern tower and the bright pink cherry blossoms makes this a very popular photo spot. This is especially true after dark, when both the Tokyo Skytree and the kawazu-zakura trees are beautifully illuminated at night.

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Where to See Kawazu-Zakura Trees Near Tokyo

There are many places outside of Tokyo that can be easily reached by train where you can enjoy kawazu-zakura trees. Many can be visited on a day trip from Tokyo, whilst others might require a stay overnight. Kanagawa is the perfect area for a day trip, while Shizuoka may require an overnight stay (although you can also see much more this way!). Here are few places to consider if you’re looking to see kawazu-zakura outside of Tokyo.

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Kawazu (Shizuoka)

Perhaps the most spectacular place to see kawazu-zakura trees is in the town in which they were first discovered. Kawazu is located on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture and is around two hours from Tokyo by train. Kawazu-zakura trees line both sides of a four-kilometer stretch of the Kawazu River, creating a stunning parade of bright pink blossoms during the spring. Each year, the town hosts the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the blooming of the local trees, which sees over a million visitors descend on the town. The very first kawazu-zakura tree, now almost 70 years old, can also still be seen outside the house where it was planted in 1955.

Miura Kaigan (Kanagawa)

Just over an hour and a half from central Tokyo by train, Miura Kaigan in Kanagawa Prefecture also boasts an incredible display of kawazu-zakura trees. Over 1,000 kawazu-zakura trees line a 1-kilometer stretch of road that runs from immediately outside Miura Kaigan station all the way to Komatsugaike Park. A cherry blossom festival is held along the route each year from February to March. During the festival, stalls are set up selling traditional Japanese foods such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewer) and taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), whilst the kawazu-zakura trees are beautifully illuminated after dark.

Nishihirabatake Park (Kanagawa)

Nishihirabatake Park has over 300 kawazu-zakura trees, and during the cherry blossom season, the park offers one of the most iconic Japanese views you’re likely to find. Here you can enjoy the sumptuous sight of the park’s blooming kawazu-zakura trees against a back drop of a snow-peaked Mount Fuji. Along with the picturesque view of Mount Fuji, the kawazu-zakura are also illuminated at night. Nishirabatake Park is an especially easy day trip from Tokyo, taking just over an hour to get to reach from central Tokyo by train via the Odakyu Line.

Minamiizu (Shizuoka)

Another beautiful spot on the Izu Peninsula, Minamiizu also boasts a proud collection of kawazu-zakura trees. An hour further south of Kawazu by a combination of train and bus, around 800 kawazu-zakura cherry blossom trees flank both sides of Minamiizu’s Aonogawa River. During the spring, the pink kawazu-zakura trees are beautifully enhanced by the gorgeous bright yellow nanohana flowers that follow the blossoms along the banks of both sides of the river. 

Kawazu-Zakura – One of the Most Beautiful Sakura Trees to See During Japan’s Cherry Blossom Season

The kawazuzakura is one of the most unique cherry blossom trees of all the varieties to be found in Japan. Not only is the kawazuzakura tree loved for its beautifully deep pink colors. The tree’s early and long blooming period means that kawazuzakura can be enjoyed for close to a whole month from February through to March every year.

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Kanto Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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James Davies
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