The only Kabazakura in the world and one of the designated 5 great cherry blossoms of Japan. Kitamoto, 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. Neighboring Tokoji temple host the festival. Normally, the festival is held during the peak of the blooming period. However, last year the cherry blossom forecast was askew. Thus, the festival ended up being on just as the sakura were opening. The kabazakura in Ishito, Kitamoto, typically blooms for about 10 days in early to mid April.
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. But there are plenty of other spots in Kitamoto where you can 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.
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.
The Kitamoto Ishito Kabazakura Festival details updated annually: