early blooming sakura cherry blossoms at Kita Asaba cherry blossom embankment in Nissai Sakado
early blooming sakura cherry blossoms at Kita Asaba cherry blossom embankment in Nissai Sakado

We’ve been doing hanami since the start of the year. In January it was under the wintersweet, in February under the plum blossoms. Finally, the one we’ve all been waiting for: cherry blossoms. When I wrote this article in 2019 we had enjoyed Sakura Hanami in mid March thanks to early blooming kanzakura. However, this year, 2020, it looks like we’ll be able to enjoy hanami at Kita Asaba Sakura Avenue from early March.

Update February 21st: it was announced this morning that due to coronavirus concerns the 2020 sakura festival has been cancelled. The car park will remain open and people can choose to come at their own risk, there will just be no festival.

early march sakura in sakado kita asaba
Taken on February 18th 2020 at Kita Asaba Sakura Tsutsumi
(the rest of the photos on this blog post are from 2019)

My last visit to Kita Asaba Sakura Embankment was on Tuesday February 18th and there were already a few beautiful blossoms and the promise of many more over the coming days. At this moment in time, it seems that they will be in full bloom a week earlier than last year and maybe even by the first week of March. No guarantees of course as this is Mother Nature we are talking about, and she might change her mind! But if the weather continues as it has the past few weeks, it is highly likely you can see full bloom sakura from early March at Kita Asaba Sakura Tsutsumi.

Early March Sakura just north of Tokyo

Early march sakura just north of tokyo kita asaba sakura tsutsumi sakado cherry blossoms
1.2 kilometres of kanzakura early blooming cherry blossoms

Less than 50 kilometres north west of Tokyo you can walk under this 1.2 kilometre avenue of beautiful kanzakura. It takes less than an hour by car and just over an hour by public transport to the Kita Asaba Sakura Embankment.

On one day during the blooming period this cherry blossom park has a festival in the typical sense; with live entertainment and food stalls. You can hanami under the trees when the festival isn’t on. There are benches for free use and people bring their own picnic mats too.

Kanzakura

Nissai Sakado Sakura festival early blooming sakura cherry blossoms saitama with kids things to do in saitama cherry blossoms in saitama
Kanzakura Up close – Nissai Sakado Kitaasaba Sakura Zutsumi

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.

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 2020?

early blooming cherry blossom mid march sakura in sakado saitama
1st Sakura Hanami of 2019 in Sakado, Saitama

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 around mid March. That is about two weeks before the Somei Yoshino variety. However, this year 2020, it will most likely be early March and the Somei Yoshino are also predicted to bloom earlier than normal in 2020.

Nissai Sakado Sakura Festival

Nissai Sakado Sakura festival early blooming sakura cherry blossoms

Update February 21st: it was announced this morning that due to coronavirus concerns the 2020 sakura festival has been cancelled. The car park will remain open and people can choose to come at their own risk, there will just be no festival.

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 2020 the festival has been cancelled over coronavirus concerns.

The Nissai Sakado cherry blossoms typically bloom around mid March. They usually have a cherry blossom sakura festival shortly after the trees have started to bloom, except in 2020 due to the coronavirus. The car park will remain open and there are toilets by the car park and one vending machine. 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

Official Sakado City Website

Nissai Cherry Blossom festival event information updated annually.

Access

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 dates for 2020 were scheduled for March 14th, 15th, 21st and 22nd. However, they decided to cancel the bus even though they initially said when cancelling the festival that they would go ahead with it. 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

Strawberry picking

6 Comments

  1. Hello,
    So all of the sakura festival including kawazu festival has been cancelled due to corona virus? during this corona virus outbreak, is there any safer place to enjoy early sakura bloom in Japan? Thanks you

    1. Author

      Hi, thank you for your query. We’re still waiting for confirmation from many locations. But even though some festivals have been cancelled you can still visit the locations and do hanami there. At your own risk of course. It is likely, but not guaranteed, that locations will be less busy than usual so a little bit safer. It is still early days so there are likely to be changes, but hopefully we can confirm everything closer to the time.

      1. Thank you for your helpfull information, we are from Indonesia, actually plan to visit kawazu for the festival on March 8, hope the outbreak will be over soon and won’t continue spread widely.

        1. Hi! I am not sure if you’ve seen all the updates in the past 24 hours, but there has been a dramatic change; basically almost all events and even museums and attractions are shutting down for the next two weeks. ;-( Schools finished up three weeks early (today) for spring break. Disney, Universal Studios, Ghibli, TeamLab Borderless and Planets among hundreds of locations have announced they are closing for around two weeks. You may need to check with your airline if they are still planning on flying to Japan and also checking any bookings you have made here to see if they are still okay. The very best of luck to you. I am very sorry that your trip will be very different than what you planned.

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