The only Kabazakura in the world and one of the designated 5 great cherry blossoms of Japan. In Kitamoto City, Saitama Prefecture.
Only one in the world
Last year (2017) we went to visit Saitama’s most famous cherry blossom in Kitamoto. Designated one of Japan’s five “great” sakura, it is the only naturally formed kabazakura in the whole world. A true one of a kind. It is approximately 800 years old. The tree has been revered for hundreds of years. Furthermore, it is a designated natural monument of Japan since 1922.
The name “Kabazakura” is said to come from the brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo. Minamoto no Yoritomo was the founder and the first shōgun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. His brother Noriyori’s nickname was Kaba No Okaja at that time of his death. From what they can tell, the tree is a hybrid of the Edohigan and Yamazakura variations of cherry blossom.
Each year thousands of admirers come to pay homage to this living legend, if you will. A relic that has withstood not just the test of time, but dozens of natural and man-made disasters of epic proportions. When we made our pilgrimage last year we timed it to the cherry blossom festival.
The Kitamoto Ishito Kabazakura Festival
Normally, the festival is held for one weekend during the peak of the blooming period. The kabazakura in Ishito, Kitamoto, typically blooms for about 10 days in early to mid April. Therefore, typically the festival falls around the first weekend of April. Neighboring Tokoji temple host the festival. There a few food vans in the precincts for the occasion. Normally there are some live performances scheduled too. Moreover, the kabazakura is lit up for the two nights of the festival.
Please note they cancelled the festival in both 2020 and 2021 on account of the Coronavirus. Also, the festival is quite small at this site. However, the Kitamoto Ishito Kabazakura Festival is just one part of a larger Kitamoto Cherry Blossom Festival:
Kitamoto cherry blossoms
Although, we missed the kabazakura in its full glory, the trip was definitely worth it. Not least because you can feel the power of the tree as you get close to it. There are about six other cherry blossom trees in the immediate vicinity. You wouldn’t need a lot of time at this site, but there are plenty of other cherry blossom spots in Kitamoto where you can also see beautiful cherry blossoms.
For one, the Takao Sakura park is nearby as is Kitamoto Children’s Park. The latter is the perfect place to hanami with young children. In addition, the Jougaya cherry blossom avenue close to the children’s park is also famous for its blooms. Moreover, it was one of the few places that went ahead with their sakura matsuri in 2021.
The day we visited Kitamoto Ishito Kabazakura was just one stop on our one day itinerary for Kitamoto. We sandwiched the visit between hanami in the children’s park and a tour of the excellent Pocky factory.
Season: around the first two weeks of April.
Festival: one weekend during the bloom.
Light up: for the weekend of the cherry blossom festival.
Address: On the precincts of Tokoji, 3-119 Ishitoshuku, Kitamoto, Saitama 〒364-0025