We’ve been doing hanami since the start of the year. In January it was under the wintersweet, in February under the plum blossoms. Finally, the one we’ve all been waiting for: cherry blossoms. Mid March Sakura Hanami was made possible by early blooming kanzakura. Kanzakura that have been in bloom since Thursday March 14th in Sakado City in Western Saitama.
Early Cherry Blossoms just north of Tokyo
Less than 50 kilometres north west of Tokyo you can walk under this 1.2 kilometre avenue of beautiful kanzakura. It takes less than an hour by car and just over an hour by public transport to the Kita Asaba Sakura Embankment.
On one day during the blooming period this cherry blossom park has a festival in the typical sense; with live entertainment and food stalls. You can hanami under the trees when the festival isn’t on. There are benches for free use and people bring their own picnic mats too.
There are over 100 varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan. Yamazakura cherry blossoms are native to Japan. But the vast majority of cherry blossoms in Japan have been intentionally cultivated in gardens and parks. The most commonly known are the Somei Yoshino that typically bloom the end of March to the start of April.
The earlier blooming varieties of sakura include Kanzakura and Kawazuzakura. The Kawazu Sakura are probably the best known with oversea visitors. The cherry blossom festival in the eponymous Kawazu Town has put them on the global map.
The Kanzakura are currently not as famous with overseas tourists, but are well known among Japanese natives. In Tokyo there are a couple of kansakura in Ueno park that are renowned. And in some other parks in Tokyo too you can find a few to enjoy in bloom in early March. Generally though Kanzakura are not as famous or celebrated as Kawazu. One reason is because there are few places with a concentration of them for that expected impressive dramatic scene.
Where can I see cherry blossoms in mid March?
There are kansakura festivals in Shizuoka and other parts of Japan. But none are as famed as the Kawazu Cherry blossom festival. Moreover, as until very recently there was nowhere in the greater Tokyo area that was reputed for a kanzakura festival.
Nissai Sakado Sakura festival is bridging that gap with its early blooming kanzakura. Kanzakura can bloom as early as mid to late February. In Sakado, just North of Tokyo, they tend to bloom around mid March. That is about two weeks before the Somei Yoshino variety.
Nissai Sakado Sakura Festival
One of Sakado’s bragging rights is that it has one of the first cherry blossom festivals in Saitama. If you arrive to Japan too early for somei yoshino sakura, or just can’t wait to do hanami, never fear! You now have an alternative choice to viewing the handful of kanzakura trees in Shinjuku Gyoen or Ueno Park.
The Nissai Sakado cherry blossoms typically bloom around mid March. They have a cherry blossom sakura festival shortly after the trees have started to bloom. This year the main festival was on Saturday March 16th. They call the whole period of the expected blooming as a “festival” and as such the “Nissai Sakura Festival” is on until March 24th this year. Apart from the 16th though there is little in the way of entertainment or even food at the festival.
There is one food stall on the weekends beside the car park. And there are also toilets and a vending machine beside the main car park too. Other than that: just 1.2 kilometres of sakura trees along an embankment of the Oppe River in a rural area of Sakado. There are approximately two hundred kanzakura creating a beautiful arched walkway.
Nissai Sakura Festival at Kita Asaba Sakura embankment
Hours: The area is an open public space and as such you can access it at anytime, but there is no lighting along the embankment and / or the avenue of sakura. The parking lot is manned between 9 am and 5 pm on the weekends.
Cost: Free and parking is free too.
Address: 149 Kitaasaba, Sakado-shi, Saitama-ken 350-0266 (Map and access below the event link)
Phone: Not available
Nissai Cherry Blossom festival event information updated annually:
During the course of the main blooming period there is a free shuttle bus from Kita Sakado station. Kita Sakado station is on the Tobu Tojo line. The bus runs on weekends and public holidays. The dates for 2019 are March 16th, 17th, 21st, 23rd and 24th. There is one bus every 40 minutes. They run from 8.30 am to 4.10 pm (from the station the last bus is 3.10 pm). It takes about 10 minutes on the bus from the station.
By car it is about 5 minutes from the Sakado Nishi SMART interchange. You have to have an ETC card in your car to use a SMART interchange. There is parking for up to 300 cars. If you come by car you have to follow the signs to the parking lot. They forbid public traffic accessing the small streets that run along the side of the embankment. The parking is free.
In the area