Information for the Sumiyoshi Sakura no Sato すみよし桜の里 / Sumiyoshi Kawazuzakura すみよし河津桜 in Sakado.
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. Kawazu Zakura are one of the earliest to bloom in the year, generally around mid February. 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.
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.
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.
Sumiyoshi Cherry Blossoms 2020
However, in 2020 the Sumiyoshi sakura bloomed again. Maybe they are in sync with the Olympics! As they seem to bloom every four years.
I had a good feeling when I saw bulbs on the tree around mid February. Especially as according to a local Obachan I got chatting to, they didn’t even bulb in 2019. Sure enough, when I went back on the 28th of February 2020, they had all bloomed, full bloom, and were truly beautiful.
The area was effected by typhoon Hagibis in Autumn 2019, so in 2020 some of the trees had 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.
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. The fear is that even when it does look promising, they might not get to full bloom. This is what happened in 2021 and has also happened several times in the past.
Sakura Watch 2023
The kawazuzakura at Sumiyoshi surprisingly suddenly bloomed around March 6th. Myself and a friend had visited them a couple of times before that and they had started to sprout green leaves, so we both believed they wouldn’t bloom this year. But then suddenly they did! However, as of March 9th 2023, there is as much green as pink on the trees and they probably only have a day or two left on them. They actually look better from a distance than up close!
In the area
Also see: Seitenkyu and shrines near Meiji factory and Sumiyoshi
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 started to come into bloom around the third week in February when I first wrote this post. However, in 2023 they only started blooming the second week of March! 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, the festival is cancelled in 2023 as it was in 2022, 2021 and 2020, due to the pandemic. Kita Asaba is about a 10 to 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, as the car park is completely overgrown. But they might clear out the overgrowth from the old car park should the blossoms bloom. Failing that, you will need to find somewhere else to park. Most people park illegally on the side of the road. It is a risk, and also hard to squeeze in with so many others doing it. The pin point on this, the first, map is the car park – in case they open it again!;
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).
the obsession with cheery blossoms in Japan is something else, though, right? It’s sooo important to EVERYONE! its a beautiful colour as winter fades…
Was that an intentional typo “cheery” blossoms!! 😀 I like it, I might just have to use it!