Do you want to see Sakura as early as February? Go to Kawazu

We just arrived in Shizuoka from Nagano. This was the ninth day of our two-week winter trip in Japan. Starting from Sapporo and Hakodate with the temperature ranged around -5 to -7 degrees Celsius, then we moved to Nagano with -4 degrees, suddenly a 9 degrees temperature in Shizuoka felt very warm. We were suddenly feeling overdressed with our winter coats. I just laughed remembering that we once considered 9 degrees to be warm while we came from a place with over 30 degrees celsius daily.

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Mt. Fuji as seen from the hotel window

It was 4PM in the afternoon and Fujisan was seen standing proud from our window. We should be moving to Lake Yamankako in a couple of days. I just hoped the weather would stay clear. It wouldn’t be great staying there by the lake if Mt. Fuji was hidden behind the clouds. My wife decided to rest at the hotel, but I took a walk around. Little that I knew, our hotel was close to Sunpu Castle. Inside the castle, there was a big park and there I found some cherry trees that were in full bloom.

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Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka

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Cherry Tree at Sunpu Castle park

“Ha? You could see cherry blossoms in winter? Maybe this year has been quite warm in Japan and some trees blossom earlier than the others”, I was confused.

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Facebook Post by the Japan Embassy in Indonesia 

Then in the evening, as I was sharing the story of seeing cherry blossoms at Sunpu Castle to my wife, a post from the Japan Embassy in Indonesia appeared on my Facebook feed. Sakura trees were already in full bloom in Kawazu. The annual sakura festival had just officially started there until March. We then decided to change our itinerary for the next day and headed for Kawazu.

Kawazu town is located in the Izu Peninsula about two hours and forty minutes by train from Tokyo or about two hours from Shizuoka. Kawazu is famous for many things such as beautiful shorelines, hot springs, but in particular its early bloom sakura.

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Kawazuzakura, named after Kawazu where it was first cultivated, is among the sakura varieties that start flowering much earlier than other types in Japan.

We used our National JR Pass on a local slower train to Atami and then changed train to Kawazu. Unfortunately, we hopped on to the wrong train in Atami, instead of heading for Kawazu, we went back to Shizuoka direction. For this, we lost about 30 to 40 minutes to get back on track again leading for Kawazu.

The train line from Atami going to Kawazu is co-managed by JR and Izu Kyuko Railway that operates from Ito to Izukyu-Shimoda. We had our JR  Pass that covered until Ito, so by the time we got off at Kawazu we had to pay an adjusted fare of Y1,900. The return ticket was a bit cheaper at Y1,500. The view on the train ride from Atami to Kawazu was magnificent. You had the ocean view on the left and rural Japan on the right window.

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Kawazu Station

As we stepped off the train, all dark pink flowers of Kawazu-zakura could be clearly seen next to the platform and along the river not far from the station. The trees stretch along the river as far as four kilometres inland.

Kawazu

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Now, what tips I could give you if you’re thinking about going to Kawazu?

  • Cherry blossom festival is usually between the second week of February to early March. The later time in the festival, the bigger the crowd.
  • A lot of time is used for travelling, even from Shizuoka you need about 2-3 hour time one way so obviously prepare sufficient time.
  • Going to Kawazu, get a seat on the left of the train compartment, then you could get to see the beautiful scenery of the seashore along the way
  • Walk further upstream instead of downstream or go across the bridge to get a better view with less crowd.
  • For JR pass holder, don’t be surprised if you have to pay an additional fare as you arrive in Kawazu, it’s a co-chaired line with the private train company.
  • Know the train schedules so you could get to the train station back in time and reduce the waiting time there.

Date of Travel (12 February 2020)

References:

Kawazu – http://www.kawazu-onsen.com/eng/

Sakura varieties – https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_species.html

Tips for train access to Kawazu –  https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-to-atami-ito-shimoda-and-other-places-in-izu-peninsula-by-railways.html

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