Before the pandemic, the 1300 year old Koma Shrine had two different cherry blossom festivals each year. One is a blessing for all the cherry blossoms in the precinct. It also celebrates the 300 year old Higanzakura and 400 year old weeping cherries on the grounds. It is normally held around the peak bloom of the famous cherry blossom tree. The other is a more typical “sakura matsuri”, normally held in early April. Currently, the cherry blossom blessing is scheduled for 2023…
Koma Shrine Cherry Blossom Blessing 2023
When the Higanzakura is in full bloom they have a special ceremony to pray for all the cherry blossoms on the precincts. That is called the Oukasai and the night version of it is the Yozakurakai. Oukasai and Yozakurakai can be interpreted as “cherry blossom festival” and “night cherry blossom festival” respectively in English, but this event is a bit different to a regular cherry blossom festival. Hence, I call it a cherry blossom blessing!
For the cherry blossom blessing ceremony, the shrine maidens perform a ceremonial dance called Mikomai. And that night, the Koma Family residence, which is a National Important Cultural Property, is open to the public as a tea house. Both the Higanzakura and Weeping Cherries are lit up that night. In 2023, the date for the Oukasai, aka cherry blossom blessing, and Yozakurakai is Sunday March 26th. The Oukasai starts around 4 pm.
Limited edition Goshuin
On the day of the Cherry Blossom Blessing you can get a special cherry blossom Goshuin / Suzumori “Sakuya”. The Goshuin will be available for purchase from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm on the day of the festival only. Moreover, you can only buy the Suzumori Sakuya between 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Both cost 700 yen.
Sakura Light Up Koma Shrine
Thankfully, they will be having the popular cherry blossom tree light up event. The avenue of sakura will be lit with lanterns from 4 pm. Furthermore, they light the higanzakura and the weeping cherry in different colors. They are lit up between 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm. The event will go ahead even if its raining. However, if there is very heavy rain they may cancel last minute. If it is raining heavily on the 26th, I recommend you check the website for the latest information.
There is an exhibition of flowers in the old thatched residence, the former Koma Family residence, at the back of the shrine.
Apart from the Higanzakura and weeping cherries, Koma shrine has some beautiful somei yoshino cherry blossoms. The latter are the ‘main’ variety that typically bloom the last week in March and first week in April. However, in 2023, they are expected to bloom much earlier than normal. Possibly even the earliest in recorded history. Whether Koma Shrine will also have their sakura matsuri when the Somei Yoshino are in bloom remains to be seen. Regardless, you can still enjoy the beauty of the cherries at the shrine.
If the Sakura Matsuri does go ahead one of the highlights is the Shishimai Lion Dance performance. There is also another traditional rice pounding (mochitsuki) event annually at this event. I will add information to this post if the sakura matsuri is confirmed.
Event: Oukasai / Yozakurakai aka Cherry Blossom Blessing 桜花祭 / 夜桜会
Date: Sunday March 26th 2023
Time: from 4 pm to 7.30 pm, but goshuin available from 8.30 am.
Cost: free to spectate the ceremony / light up. Goshuin cost 700 yen, tea and Japanese sweets price to be confirmed.
Venue: Koma Shrine, 833 Niihori, Hidaka, Saitama 350-1243. View on Google Maps.
The shrine is a 20 minute walk from the JR Komagawa Station on the Hachiko and Kawagoe lines. There is plenty of parking for anyone who comes by car. Although, some of the overflow car parks are quite a walk away. But there is one small and one large car park right by the shrine’s torii.
In the area: Be sure to check out Shoden-in when visiting Koma Shrine. It is only a few minutes walk away. It is also picturesque in spring (and all year round!).