At this stage, the cherry blossoms on the Shingashi River in Kawagoe need little introduction. It has become one of Saitama’s most popular and famous cherry blossom viewing spots. However, before the famed tree bloom at the end of March there are two early blooming sakura nearby that awe us with their beauty. Most locals know about these two trees, but few tourists do. I am not suggesting for one minute that these trees are worth going out of your way to visit. However, for those who happen to live in the area the randoseru blessing information might be of interest. Furthermore, if you are visiting Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine before the main blossoms bloom, these two stunning cherry blossom trees can be a consolation prize!
Early blooming cherry blossoms on the Shingashi River
Update March 15th 2021: the trees are currently in full bloom, a little earlier than an average year.
The two early blooming cherry blossom trees are near the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. They are located south of the shrine, directly across from each other on either side of the river. The one on the opposite side of the river to Hikawa Shrine is near the back entrance to the Kawagoe Gyomu.
Kawagoe Hikawa shrine is my family’s shrine of worship for decades. Thus, we visit it often. Although nowadays, since the shrine became overly famous, we avoid it during busy periods such as New Years and the wind chime events. We visited the shrine today for a randoseru blessing for my daughter and as luck would have it the two stunning early blooming trees were in full bloom.
Before children start elementary school in parents, grandparents or guardians buy each child a Randoseru. Most children receive their randoseru well before the school year starts. The school year in Japan is from April to March. Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine offer a randoseru blessing for local children, at a fee, before the school year starts. It costs 3000 yen per child. For that you get a blessing, a mini randoseru amulet, an ema prayer votive with a children’s motif on it, a ‘hamaya’ decorative arrow, candy and a few other small bits. There is usually three different dates scheduled between February and March. 2021 dates: February 21st, March 7th and March 20th.
Participating in a randoseru blessing
You have to book ahead for it. Moreover, you have to contact the shrine directly to inquire about booking. And it has to be two weeks before the date you want to do the ceremony. We are registered worshippers of Kawagoe Hikawa shrine, but we still had to submit our interest by letter (2019). They only take 20 families per ceremony. To date is has been operated on a first come first served basis. I mention this because sometimes these type of things are lottery based. They send out a letter of confirmation of your booking which you bring along on the day.
The main Shingashi Cherry blossoms
March 15th 2021: the trees have buds on them.
The Shingashi River cherry blossom boat event is the third most popular post on my blog of all time. In the last week it has had thousands upon thousands of views (thank you) and not just from within Japan. It is the most globally read post on the blog. With that in mind, for those coming on a short term visit to Japan, I want to update on the status of the cherry blossom trees.
This is 2019 information: I was at the famed sakura spot this morning, March 21st 2019. The cherry blossom trees are currently as bare as bare can be. This in stark contrast to last year when the cherry blossoms were already blooming on the same date. When we pulled up at 9 am there were work men arriving at the side of the river. When we were leaving at 11.30 am they had put up all the festival lanterns along the main sakura section.
More information on Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine:
The event post for the boat ride, updated annually:
And general information / an account of a visit to the Shingashi River cherry blossoms: