Kawazu Zakura, early blooming cherry blossoms, at Semba-gashi Historic Park in downtown Kawagoe
During the week I was searching online for Kawazu Zakura, early blooming cherry blossoms, in Kawagoe. Its a search I’ve done several times over the last few years. In the past it has brought up the same old locations, that only have one or two trees. Such as, Kitain Temple. Unfortunately, Instagram is also quite limited in searches too. It is such a pity that a) Google doesn’t really pull up Instagram results. And moreover b), you can’t search for more than one tag at once on Instagram itself.
To be honest, when I was doing the search I wasn’t particularly optimistic. But I thought if I was lucky I might bring up an off the beaten path location. My favorite kind! And / or somewhere like Yatsu no Sato that although it only has a few trees is very scenic. And lo and behold! For the first time ever, the search was productive. And I found a blog post that had just been written that day announcing that the kawazu zakura in Sembagashi historic park were in full bloom. I wanted to go straight away but I already had (have!) a full calendar, but I managed to squeeze in a quick visit today. And I am so glad I did.
Semba-gashi historic park
Semba-gashi historic park is a small park in the Semba area of Kawagoe. Despite being (hidden) right in downtown Kawagoe, it is very quiet and tranquil. Its hard to believe today with no river in sight, but this park is on the site of the former Semba-gashi docklands. This area was once a thriving merchant and dockland town. Now it looks more like a marsh than a once functioning dockland. Furthermore, there used to be a purifying waterfall at the site too. Worshippers of the Atago shrine would cleanse themselves in the waterfall before praying at the shrine. The shrine still exists today. Unfortunately, little else does, but there are markers of the former life
Semba-gashi River Dock
The topography of current day Kawagoe is very different to days of yore. Flood control work on the Shingashi river is mainly responsible for the changes. Back in the day, the Shingashi river had the nickname of the river of 99 bends. Thanks to those very bends, the river remained high throughout even the winter. It was ideal for merchant boats travelling to and from Tokyo. According to an advertisement from 1888 in the municipal archives, the “express” boat used to take 15 and a half hours to go from the Semba-gashi docks to Hanakawado in Asakusa (Tokyo). Moreover, it took 23 hours for the return up the river!
Shipping continued in the area until the arrival of the Tobu Tojo line in 1914. That was the beginning of the end. In the 1920s the shipping industry suffered another blow when work began on straightening the Shingashi River. But it was an order to discontinue sailing in 1931, from Saitama Prefecture, that killed the three hundred year boating history of the Semba area.
Atago Shrine is one of a pair of related shrines in the area. The Atago Shrine is positioned on the top of Atago hill. The aforementioned waterfall used to spring from the hill. The author Nakajima Takamasa described the falls as “clean and cool” in an account in 1801. There are stairs up from the park to the torii. And then stairs from the torii to the shrine. There is a wood obscuring the view on the park side. On the other side you can see route 16! On the far side of route 16, about 300 meters west, there is the partner of this shrine.
Near the remains of the waterfall there is an Acala Stone Statue of a dragon eating a sword. According to Kawagoe city, it is not known when or why it was erected. I can’t help wondering if it is related to a legend of the wizard “Sempo” and the origin of the name Semba. I hope to put more about that one in a post coming up about another off the beaten path cherry blossom spot in Kawagoe!
Kawazu Zakura are a type of early blooming cherry blossoms. They tend to bloom from the end of February to early March. Of the other kawazu zakura spots that I have been to this past week, these were the furthest along. Actually others haven’t even bloomed yet. But these are actually already turning green. So if you do want to see them its best to do so in the next few days. Update February 2023; as of February 16th 2023, there already some blossoms open.
There are about 15 Kawazu Zakura in the park in total. Five of them are at the bottom of the stairs that connects the park to the Atago shrine. There are about six on the marsh. And then there are three near the shrine’s torii as well as one in the parking lot for the shrine. You can’t get up close to the ones on the marsh, but they look particularly picturesque from a distance. With the right light you can see them reflected in the marsh. They also look very pretty from the top of the stairs that leads to the shrine.
You might also like: 10 Cherry Blossom Spots Kawagoe 2022.
Semba-gashi historic park information
|Address:||〒350-0034 Saitama, Kawagoe, Senbamachi, 4 Chome−２１−2|
|Online:||Official web page on the Kawagoe City website|
The park is located close to national route 16. There are four car parking spots. However, there is also an open field beside it where others had parked. It can hold about 10 cars at a guess. Its easiest to go on foot if possible. The Kawagoe station is only a ten to fifteen minute walk away.