Sumiyoshi Sakura No Sato is a riverside embankment walk in Sakado City, Saitama, about an hour from Tokyo. Along the embankment there are early blooming cherry blossoms called Kawazuzakura.
Sumiyoshi Sakura No Sato
The 150 Kawazuzakura, a type of early blooming cherry blossom, at Sumiyoshi Sakura No Sato were planted in 2003 by the locals in an attempt to create a new tourist spot in Sakado city. There are few other famous Kawazu Cherry blossom spots in Saitama. However, for the most part, the story of the Sumiyoshi sakura has been a tragedy. There is a slight chance that 2020 will bring some glory though. Update 2020/02/28 – the glory has come! They are in full bloom as of today and absolutely stunning.
The trees took four years to bloom at all. In 2007 when they finally did bloom, it looked promising for the sakura of Sumiyoshi. In 2008, they were pretty enough to start drawing tourists. However, ever since then it has been hit and miss. In 2016 they bloomed beautifully and went viral on the web. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them that year, but promptly made a note to visit them in 2017.
Sakado City scheduled a sakura festival for 2017. They made a car park for the expected crowds, charging 300 yen for the convenience, and waited in anticipation for the sakura to bloom as they had in 2016. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Like hundreds of others I went along expecting to see the spectacular scenes of photos from 2016. And was duly disappointed.
This time the area went viral for being a con and a disappointment and there hasn’t been a festival since then. And very few visitors either. The car park was left to ruin. The portable toilets long since removed. And the area moved on and tried to forget about the disaster of 2017. In 2018 and 2019 they also didn’t bloom and people erased Sumiyoshi Sakura No Sato from the list of cherry blossom sightseeing locations in Saitama.
Sakura Watch 2021
Last update February 12th 2021. I’ve been to the promenade three times this week, including today. Quite a lot of the trees have buds and there were even three trees that had two to three small blooms on them. It looks promising for 2021 too! Also, the weeping plum blossom in nearby Saikoji is currently in bloom.
Sumiyoshi Cherry Blossoms 2020
However, due to a photo I saw on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been to check on the Kawazu zakura in Sumiyoshi
twice three times so far this month. They were looking promising for the first two visits and low behold on my last visit, today the 28th of February, they are in full bloom. Could 2020 be is the year they all bloom simultaneously again? Maybe they are in sync with the Olympics!
There are already two trees with decent blooms and the other trees are a promising shade of pink around the bulbs. According to a local Obachan I was talking to there, they didn’t even bulb last year, so maybe that they have bulbs at all is a good sign? 28/02/2020: they all bloomed, full bloom, and are beautiful.
The area was effected by typhoon Hagibis last Autumn, so some of the trees have river debris on them, but they still look really pretty – as per the photo above. Others were uprooted by the typhoon as per the photo below.
But even the municipal Government has given up on the cherry blossoms at Sumiyoshi. They used to have a dedicated web page for the sakura when they were flourishing. Now, the area just gets a small mention on a cycle course leaflet.
Kawazu Zakura are one of the earlier blooming cherry blossoms in Japan. The most famous are the eponymous Kawazu cherry blossoms of Kawazu City in Shizuoka. Absolutely breathtaking scenery can be witnessed during the month of February in the area.
Other areas also have Kawazu zakura that bloom in February such as the ones in Shinjuku Gyoen. However, the Kawazu zakura in Sakado (when they bloom) have typically started to bloom at the end of February with full bloom in early to mid March. In 2020,
it remains to be seen full bloom has been the end of February. The fear (which thankfully turned out to be unsubstantiated in 2020) is that even though it looks promising right now, they might not get to full bloom as has happened in the past.
As the car park is completely over grown, you need to find somewhere else to park. I parked at Saikoji Temple one of the times, at Suguro Shrine another and another I parked along the embankment on the far side of the river. However, that is not possible now. Most people are parking (illegally) along the side of the road. You can do that at your own risk or ask to park at either a shrine or temple or at the community center up the road.
Shrines and temples
Both Saikoji and Suguro mentioned above are worth popping by. There are also another couple of photogenic shrines and temples within walking distance of the cherry blossoms. You can check them out here with a few other suggestions of things to do in the North East area of Sakado.
Sakado also has other early blooming sakura of the Kanzakura variety. They do bloom annually and are start to come into bloom around the third week in February. The kanzakura are located in the Nissai area of Sakado beside a levee walk called Kita Asaba. They normally have a festival annually for a week during the full bloom period of the Kanzakura. However, in 2020 and 2021 the festival was cancelled on account of the Coronavirus. Kita Asaba is about a 15 minute drive from Sumiyoshi Sakura No Sato.
Strawberry picking nearby
How about combining your visit with some strawberry picking? The excellent Shimura Strawberry Picking farm is only a five minute drive from the cherry blossoms. Moreover, if you use the embankment you can actually walk to the farm. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes on foot. (You don’t have to book to pick, but due to the Coronavirus they do ask that you ring the farm before arriving. Phone number included in the farm’s blog post.)
In the years that they did have a festival they used to have a bus. There is no “special” bus now, but there is a public bus that goes relatively close. Ishiihigashi and Katsuro shogakko iriguchi bus stops are about a ten minute walk from the sakura walk. Both buses go from Wakaba Station on the Tobu Tojo Line.
Currently there is no car park, but they might clear out the overgrowth from the old car park should the blossoms continue to develop. (As of 28th of February 2020 the car park is still off limits and people are just parking illegally along the side of the road.) If so, the car park is the pin point on this, the first, map;
The main walkway with the picturesque wood guard rails is this pinpoint on the map:
Another off the beaten path kawazuzakura early blooming cherry blossom spot in Saitama Prefecture is in the city of Okegawa (click here).