Early blooming Kanzakura Cherry Blossoms, just North of Tokyo, at the Kitaasaba Sakura Zutsumi cherry blossom promenade in Sakado City
Kitaasaba Sakura Zutsumi
Less than 50 kilometers north west of Tokyo you can walk under this 1.2 kilometer avenue or ‘tunnel’ of beautiful kanzakura in Sakado city. As early as the start of March. It takes less than an hour by car and just over an hour by public transport to the Kita Asaba Sakura Embankment. Not to be confused with the early blooming kawazuzakura in Sumiyoshi in Sakado! The latter bloom even earlier than the Kanzakura.
Last year the blooms were early. With some popping through as early as mid February. The blossoms were in full bloom by March 6th 2020. This year, 2021, looks like it will be more like an “average” year, so the full bloom will possibly be a week later. Around March 13th. Its still a bit too early to tell and Mother Nature can often surprise us. I hope to visit them by the end of February and will update on their progress.
On one day during the blooming period this cherry blossom park has a festival in the typical sense; with live entertainment and food stalls. It is called the Nissai Sakura Festival. But even when the festival isn’t on, you can hanami under the trees. There are benches you can use for free and people bring their own picnic mats too.
There are over 100 varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan. Yamazakura cherry blossoms are native to Japan. But the vast majority of cherry blossoms in Japan have been intentionally cultivated in gardens and parks. The most commonly known are the Somei Yoshino that typically bloom the end of March to the start of April.
The earlier blooming varieties of sakura include Kanzakura and Kawazuzakura. The Kawazu Sakura are probably the best known with oversea visitors. The cherry blossom festival in the eponymous Kawazu Town has put them on the global map. Sakado also has the Kawazu variety in another part of town.
The Kanzakura are currently not as famous with overseas tourists, but are well known among Japanese natives. In Tokyo there are a couple of kansakura in Ueno park that are renowned. And in some other parks in Tokyo too you can find a few to enjoy in bloom in early March. Generally though Kanzakura are not as famous or celebrated as Kawazu. One reason is because there are few places with a concentration of them for that expected impressive dramatic scene.
Where can I see cherry blossoms in early March in 2021?
There are kansakura festivals in Shizuoka and other parts of Japan. But none are as famed as the Kawazu Cherry blossom festival. Moreover, as until very recently there was nowhere in the greater Tokyo area that was reputed for a kanzakura festival.
Nissai Sakado Sakura festival is bridging that gap with its early blooming kanzakura. Kanzakura can bloom as early as mid to late February. In Sakado, just North of Tokyo, they tend to bloom from early to mid March. That is about two weeks before the Somei Yoshino variety.
Nissai Sakado Sakura Festival
The 2021 Nissai Sakura Festival at Kitaasaba sakura zutsumi has already been cancelled. It was announced the end of December 2020. In 2020, the festival was also cancelled. However, the car park was open. People can choose to come at their own risk, there will just be no festival and no shuttle bus.
One of Sakado’s bragging rights is that it has one of the first cherry blossom festivals in Saitama. If you arrive to Japan too early for somei yoshino sakura, or just can’t wait to do hanami, never fear! You now have an alternative choice to viewing the handful of kanzakura trees in Shinjuku Gyoen or Ueno Park. However, in 2021 the festival has been cancelled over coronavirus concerns. You can still view the blossoms though.
The Nissai Sakado cherry blossom festival is generally in and around the 10th of March. However, in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus the festival was cancelled. In 2020 the car park was open, but the shuttle bus was cancelled. The toilets by the car park were also open to the public. There is a vending machine near the car park too. Other than that: just 1.2 kilometres of sakura trees along an embankment of the Oppe River in a rural area of Sakado. There are approximately two hundred kanzakura creating a beautiful arched walkway.
Early March Sakura
Nissai Sakura Festival at Kita Asaba Sakura embankment
Hours: The area is an open public space and as such you can access it at anytime, but there is no lighting along the embankment and / or the avenue of sakura. The parking lot is manned between 9 am and 5 pm on the weekends.
Cost: Free and parking is free too.
Address: 149 Kitaasaba, Sakado-shi, Saitama-ken 350-0266 (Map and access below the event link)
Phone: Not available
Nissai Cherry Blossom festival event information updated annually.
During the course of the main blooming period there is a free shuttle bus from Kita Sakado station. Kita Sakado station is on the Tobu Tojo line. The bus runs on weekends and public holidays. The shuttle bus maybe cancelled on account of the Coronavirus. There is usually one bus every 40 minutes. They run from 8.30 am to 4.10 pm (from the station the last bus is 3.10 pm). It takes about 10 minutes on the bus from the station.
By car it is about 5 minutes from the Sakado Nishi SMART interchange. You have to have an ETC card in your car to use a SMART interchange. There is parking for up to 300 cars. If you come by car you have to follow the signs to the parking lot. They forbid public traffic accessing the small streets that run along the side of the embankment. The parking is free.
In the area