An Air Base Cherry Blossom Festival in Saitama Prefecture, Japan.
Between 2020 and 2022 the cherry blossom festival at Kumagaya Air base was cancelled on account of the pandemic. However, they actually set a date for the 2022 cherry blossom festival. They announced it really early on too, in the Autumn of 2021… but, regrettably, they subsequently ended up cancelling it. This year, 2023, they waited until nearer to the time to announce that they are planning a festival. If it does go ahead, and I’m pretty certain it will, this will be the first time in four years…
An Air Base Cherry Blossom Festival
First up, an account of my most recent visit to the Kumagaya Air Base Cherry Blossom Festival in 2019…
Kumagaya Air Base Cherry Blossom Festival
Not only are the cherry blossoms on the Kumagaya air base stunning, but the sakura festival is one of the better ones in Saitama Prefecture. Especially if you are a fan of helicopters and airplanes as I am. It was an amazing day out culminating in an electrifying chinook flight display. The festival is worth the journey even without this invigorating pinnacle, but seeing the chinook taking off was personally a highlight for me.
The Cherry Blossoms
There are hundreds of mature cherry blossoms in various locations around the base:
Along the main avenue is particularly resplendent, but constantly crowded so its hard to get a good photo. But each of the avenues have lines of sakura. Some of them are closed to the public, but there are quiet a few that are open. There are sakura around the permanent display of old out of use air craft too.
It is possible to do hanami at the Kumagaya Air Base Cherry Blossom Festival (this maybe different post pandemic). There is a section of sakura by the “Miizu” field where you can hanami. And there are dozens of food stalls where you can pick up festival type food and drinks. There are also vending machines dotted around the air base.
There are several elements to the sakura / cherry blossom festival at Kumagaya Air Base in Saitama. There is no entrance charge to the base and most of the events are free. Occasionally a craft or hands on experience has a nominal charge and of course all food and drink is charged too.
- Gliders: A highlight of the festival for my (then) 9 and 8 year old was getting to sit in and mess around with the controls of single and dual seat glider planes.
- Drones: There were several different drone events. This one was indoor and my older kids operated drones that were behind a net. We could watch from the pictured monitor. This one was free, I am not sure about the other ones.
- Kids can dress up in mini military outfits ➡ this is a very popular event so if you would like to partake I advise that you head along to the area when you arrive and put your name down. They will give you a time to come back, or if you’re lucky and its not too busy yet, they will give you a choice of costume for the kids to wear then and there. Outfits include the beloved “Blue Impulse” costume. (There will be no “Blue Impulse” air show in 2023).
- For my younger two kids, then 6 and 4, they said there favorite part was actually exploring and riding on various different military vehicles.
>>Kumagaya is also home to one of Japan’s official top 100 sakura spots<<
Mascots: There are several mascots walking around and you can approach them to get your photo taken with them.
Photo Props: There are photo props around the base including this one by the F-1 display. You can do it with or without the helmet.
This is just some of the highlights, there really was a huge amount of things to do as well as spectate. I haven’t even touched on the number of vehicles on display. Some you could go into / ride, but some of them were just for admiring from afar. And then there was a mini air show as well as the grand finale of the helicopter show (with three different helicopters including the Chinook above). That just blew me away – quite literally and figuratively!
JASDF Kumagaya Cherry Blossom Festival 2023
Please note, there maybe significant changes to the ‘usual’ festival on account of the pandemic.
Event: Japan Air Self Defence Force Kumagaya Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 航空自衛隊 熊谷基地さくら祭
Date: Sunday April 2nd 2023
Time: 9 am to 3 pm.
Cost: free to enter, most of the activities are free too.
Venue: JASDF Kumagaya Air Base, 839, 839 Jurokken, Kumagaya, Saitama 360-0843. View on Google Maps.
Access JASDF Kumagaya Air Base
The base is close to national route 17 and relatively close to the Yorii Smart Interchange of the Kanetsu Expressway (E17). Please note with a Smart Interchange you need to have an ETC card in your car or you can not exit. The area around the base is very congested during the festival, but there is plenty of parking. Some of the parking is quite far off by car, but there are pedestrian routes which are short cuts. Parking is managed very well. The car parks we have used have been free, but I cannot say for sure if they all are.
By public transport
The nearest train station is the Kagohara Station on the JR Takasaki line. It is about a 30 minute walk to the festival / base from the train station.
Official Twitter account where they relay the most up-to-date information.
Another air base event in Saitama Prefecture: An alternative Iruma Air Show in 2021