Cherry Blossoms Shingashi River – Kawagoe is just 31 minutes from Ikebukuro, Tokyo, on the Tobu Tojo line. It is a popular tourist town. One of Kawagoe’s most spectacular spots to enjoy “sakura” is out the back of Hikawa shrine, where the cherry blossoms line the Shingashi River. Until recent years it was mainly locals and off-the-beaten-track tourists who enjoyed its splendor, but nowadays the cherry blossom attract thousands of admirers.
One of the reasons it is such a popular cherry blossom viewing spot is because you can get a photo of a paddle boat being steered down the river under the blossoms, by a man in a festival happi coat and a traditional sugegasa hat. Moreover, if you time it right you get to see a stunning river of pink petals, as per the above photo. There are some more pictures of the pink river near the bottom of the post. In addition, you can even see the cherry blossoms at night as they are lit up. The image above is from Hikawa Shrine’s Facebook page, circa 2015.
Cherry Blossoms Shingashi River
- Shingashi River Sakura at the back of Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
- Current condition of the cherry blossoms
- Boat ride
- River of pink
- Night Light up
- Information and access
- 2022 only: centennial pinwheels
Shingashi River Sakura
There are approximately 100 mature cherry blossom trees along a 500 meter stretch of the Shingashi River behind Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. The cherry blossoms aren’t actually part of Kawagoe Hikawa SHrine, but they are often associated with the shrine due to the proximity of the shrine to the river and the sakura. Plus, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine usually run updates on the sakura during the season.
However, it was actually the then owner of Kameya Eisen, a shop established in 1783 and that still exists today, who planted the sakura in 1957. He planted 300 seeds in commemoration of the war dead, including two of his own sons who never made it back from World War II. He did plant the sakura near the shrine intentionally though, as Kawagoe Hikawa shrine is the guardian shrine of Kawagoe. And he named the cherry blossoms “Homarezakura”. In Japanese, 誉桜 – homare means honorable, so “honorable cherry blossoms”.
Current condition ~ Latest update
Update ⑥ April 7th 2022: they held on considerably well despite the heavy rain on Sunday and Monday. On the East of Hikawa Bridge they have thinned out a lot though and the river is quite pink with petals. But on the West side of the bridge they are still a bit fluffy. The river is pinking up there, but it eventually gets covered in a complete blanket of pink as you’ll see in photos further down. I’d say it’ll only be a couple of days until the blanket of pink! Possibly before the weekend is out. I don’t know if I’ll get back there now in time to see it, but if I do I will post again. Otherwise, this will be the last update for 2022.
Update ⑤ April 1st 2022: the petals started to fall considerably yesterday and today the bloom is looking much thinner. The petals weren’t falling as much today though. I have personally only ever timed it right once to see the river of pink, in 2017. Truth be told, it was more luck of being in the right place at the right time. Every time I’ve actually consciously tried to see the river filled with petals, I’ve missed it! So unfortunately I am not much help in advising when the best time to see the river of pink will be. If I had to guess, I would say Sunday if you want to see some blooms left on the tree too.
Also, FYI, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine have changed the color of some of the pinwheels for the month of April.
Previous updates summarized
Update ④ 29th March 2022: the somei yoshino are in full bloom! The festival lanterns are not up and I confirmed with city hall: they won’t be going up this year. However, the boats are going up and down the river this year. Moreover, although they said they wouldn’t be and it is not advertised anywhere, they have been lighting up the cherries at night.
Update ③ March 25th 2022: they’re coming along nicely! The two kawazuzakura are still blooming, but there are a considerable amount of green leaves today.
Update ② March 22nd 2022: the trees have started to blossom! In addition, the two kawazuzakura on the other side of the bridge are now in full bloom too.
Update ① March 18th 2022: buds on the trees.
The boat ride on the Shingashi River under the cherry blossoms is one event during the larger Kawagoe Spring Festival. Currently, the Cherry Blossoms Shingashi River boat ride isn’t accessible to the general public, but each year on one day it is open to the public. However, in both 2020 and 2021 the event was cancelled on account of the Coronavirus. BUT in 2021 the boat did go up and down the river, sans passengers, during the peak period. Thus, you could get a photo of it. It is scheduled for 2022, but there are a lot of conditions. All are outlined in the grey box two paragraphs down “Boat Ride behind Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine 2022”.
Before and after the event, you can still enjoy the sight of a man in a festival happi coat and a traditional sugegasa hat driving the boat down the river, but it is only once a year that the Cherry Blossom Boat Ride is open to the general public. When the event is on, it is normally open to the public without a booking and is free. But as you will see below, the situation is very different in 2022. Tickets are distributed, subject to availability, from in front of the Kita Kominkan on the far side of the bridge to the Hikawa shrine back entrance in a normal year, but not in 2022. In addition, the location is marked on a map I made below the access map.
Boat ride behind Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine 2022
The boat ride will be on Sunday March 27th 2022. Unfortunately, there are three big changes to this popular event in 2022.
- You must apply by March 11th, by postcard, to be put into a lottery for a coveted ticket for the boat ride. There will be no tickets available on the day. There are only 50 pairs of tickets available. A successful candidate will receive two tickets. The address to apply to is on this web page (I can’t post it here for legal reasons).
- You must be a resident of Kawagoe aged 6 years or over to apply.
- The event is charged this year (it used to be free) – it costs 500 yen per person.
Successful candidates only will be notified five days before the event if they have secured a place or not. There is a chance the event will be cancelled due to weather, river conditions or the situation with the Coronavirus. They will post on this website by 9 am on the morning of the event, if it is cancelled.
River of pink
After many years of trying to time it right, I finally got to see the river completely decorated in pink petals with my own eyes on April 10th 2017. Regrettably I am not a photographer. Moreover, I didn’t have my Canon camera at the time so I couldn’t do it justice at all. However, this will give you an idea:
Night light up
While the cherry blossoms are in full bloom you can also view them at night until 10 pm as they light lanterns along the riverside walkway. In 2021 even though the festival was cancelled, they actually lit up the cherry blossoms at night. However, according to Kawagoe City, they are not lighting them up in 2022. BUT, they actually have lit them up so far (as of March 29th). The lanterns aren’t up, but they have flood lights from below that light the trees up.
Information For Cherry Blossoms Shingashi River
The cherry blossoms don’t ‘belong’ to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, but they are often referred to as the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine cherry blossoms. Because the sakura and the Shingashi river are located behind the shrine. In 2022 for the centennial celebrations of the city, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine will display their pinwheels from early March until at least the end of the sakura season.
※You might also like: autumn flowers along the Shingashi River in Kawagoe.
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
Address:2-11-3 Miyashitamachi, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0052
Cherry blossoms and parking mapped. (However, please note since last year – 2021 – the parking is no longer free):
Scroll below the map for directions
The cherry blossoms are about 21 kilometers from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen. About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen. It is about a 20 minute drive from both the Kawagoe Interchange of the Kan-etsu expressway AND the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-o expressway to the car park.
By Public Transport
Access from Kawagoe Station
Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In addition, the buses have a monitor with sightseeing information. Moreover, some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. Also 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. In addition, there are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease. More information here:
Getting to Kawagoe from Tokyo and Omiya
- It takes just 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
- However, from Seibu Shinjuku it takes 44 minutes on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
- 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line. You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
- 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
- 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
- The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways also connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.
Shingashi River, behind Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine in Saitama, just North of Tokyo
Shingashi River, behind Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, Saitama, just North of Tokyo
More on Hikawa Shrine on this blog:
- Early bloomers on the Shingashi River and a randoseru blessing!
- Wind chimes (Furin) at Hikawa Shrine
- Autumn Leaves at Hikawa Shrine
Other points of interest in Kawagoe
The below is just a small sample, use the Kawagoe tag to find even more posts about Kawagoe!