In the middle of winter, the small seaside town of Kawazu in Shizuoka prefecture comes alive with close to a million visitors that come to see the early blooming variety of cherry blossoms. The kawazu-zakura bloom between late February to early March, a full month before the more known somei yoshino sakura bloom in Tokyo and Osaka. The kawazu-zakura, clad in a darker shade of pink, are also in full bloom for a longer period than their fleeting relatives.
I embarked on one of my solo excursions to Kawazu town on the Izu peninsula, some 4 hours southwest of Tokyo, one cold day in March to find the early blooming sakura. I was looking for a change in scenery as the trees in Tokyo were still barren as they have been in the previous weeks, waiting for the snow that never came (save for a few flakes on one lucky February day).
Kawazu is located on the eastern side of rugged Izu peninsula, in Shizuoka prefecture. Connecting by train from my apartment in Western Tokyo, I boarded a Tokaido line train to Atami and transferred to the red Izu Kyuko line. Kawazu is three stops before the end of the line at Izukyu Shimoda.
I arrived at the town’s main station of the same name, which, as with many other towns in Japan, is the center of all activity in the area. My fears of getting lost in a small town far away from Tokyo proved to be unfounded as I found myself in a stream of mostly Japanese tourists, all eager to catch a glimpse of the early blooming sakura. Following the lead of the local visitors, a few minutes later I was walking on the banks of Kawazu River, where most of the Kawazu Cherry trees can be found.
I spent roughly the next two hours walking upstream, crossing the river, then continuing downstream, taking photos of the kawazu-zakura as I strolled along. The yellow rapeseed blossoms bloom around the same time as the sakura, complementing the pink hue in a pretty floral ensemble.
I caught this bird enjoying the sight of blossoms in the middle of winter as well. It even obliged to a few shots. (After a quick google search, it looks like this is a Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus))
After a couple of hours walking around Kawazu, I went back to the train station to catch a ride back to Tokyo. I ended the long day with a quick stop at Shin-Matsuda in Kanagawa, where there are a few early blooming sakura as well, located on a picturesque hillside park.