Kawazu & Matsuda's Cherry Blossom Festival | Day Trip Guide

Before moving to Japan, I didn't know much about Cherry Blossoms, let alone the fact that there are different breeds. Since moving here, I have absolutely fallen in love with the bright pink Kawazu-zakura. 

The origin of Kawazu-Zakura

This breed of Cherry Blossom was found by chance in 1955 in the town of Kawazu in Shizuoka and was only officially named in 1974. From 1991 onwards, each year from early February to March, Kawazu town celebrate their beautiful pink blooming cherry blossoms with a festival. The trees line up along the riverbanks for a 3km stretch, and you'll be able to enjoy all kinds of festival or matsuri stall food. One particular item is very special: the Pink Taiyaki. It's a cream custard cake that is usually a tan color, but for this festival only it's pink. 

Matsuda Sakura Festival in Kanagawa (Feb 11 - Mar 12, 2023)

Though I did just say Kawazu-Zakura originates from Izu peninsula's Kawazu town, let me take you to Matsuda's Nishihirabatake Park in Kanagawa Prefecture first. The reason being, my travel route for this day trip started in Matsuda then continued onto Kawazu. 

What is so special about Matsuda? 2 things: Mount Fuji and a mixture of yellow Nanohana within the pink Sakura tree fields. The yellow and pink form a gorgeous contrast, really bringing out the spring vibes. There's also a cute small train you can ride on with kids.  


During the festival, they also provide free shuttle busses from the festival area which is on a mountain side down to the JR Odawara station so you don't have to walk through steep hills. 

*Because all the flowers are on a hill side with many stairs, strollers and wheelchairs are not possible in this area. If you're looking for something more accessible, check out the next section about Kawazu-Zakura Matsuri. 

Getting to Matsuda

I used the highway bus from Shinjuku to get to Matsuda. It's super convenient and reasonably priced. Here are the details: 

  • Bus Route: Shinjuku to Gotemba/Hakone 新宿‐御殿場・箱根
  • Bus Stop for Matsuda: Tomei Matsuda 東名松田
  • Time required from Shinjuku: 1hr 15m
  • Cost: ¥1,230/adult one-way
  • Bus has charging sockets and wifi 
  • Bus booking site: https://secure.j-bus.co.jp/hon (you can also buy tickets at the Shinjuku highway bus station, weekdays aren't crowded, but would advise to buy in advance for weekends)
  • After you get off, follow the pink sign towards the matsuri entrance, it's a short 10min walk 
The bus I took in order to fit in time for both festivals was the 7:35am bus

Kawazu-Zakura Matsuri in Kawazu, Shizuoka (Feb 1-28, 2023)

This year (2023) the festival will be held on Feb 1 to 28th. However I wouldn't suggest rushing there just yet. The flowers don't reach full bloom until late February, so the best time to go is towards the end of the festival. 

The official website will upload daily photos to show you the flowering conditions of 9 different areas where these flowers bloom. Generally when reading Cherry Blossom flowering conditions, places all around Japan use this standard:

Tsubomi: buds appear, flowering starts

50% bloom, 70% bloom: half of the flowers are still in buds

Mankai/Migoro: full bloom or best viewing time, everything has flowered 

Chirihajime: leaves are starting to fall, this is the best time to view Hana Ikada (花筏) which is fallen petals in river, aka flower rafts. 

Owari: the flowers are all gone 

From Matsuda to Kawazu

I did a day trip last year to see both festivals, so from Nishihirabatake Park I took the free shuttle bus down to JR Odawara Station. From there I took the Odoriko Express train down to Kawazu. It takes 1.5hr ride on the train, and I took the 11:20am train and had my lunch there. 

There are sockets for charging your phone, so make sure you bring your own plug! 

Main spots in Kawazu

Allow me to get straight to the point: WHERE ARE THE PINK TAIYAKI FISH? 

After getting off at Kawazu Station, it'll be pretty clear that everyone is walking towards the northwest direction as that's where the flowers are. Follow the banks of Kawazu river north until you see a large red bridge, it's called 豊泉橋  (Housenbashi). From there the food stalls are on the right side (east) of the riverbank, and you will eventually run into the pink taiyaki shop. It's about after 20mins of walking from the station. 

There are actually 2 pink taiyaki stalls when I went, the one further north had a better shape (less burned and they cut off the crusty edges), so don't rush to the first stall you see, walk a bit more north to find the second one. 

After the red bridge is also where you will see the iconic row of bright pink cherry blossoms with mountains in the background and the river in front of it. So don't give up until you've walked at least 20mins. 

The red bridge isn't marked in English on google maps, but it's just to the west of the "Kawazu Sakura Original Tree"


栖足寺 Seisokuji Temple

This cute temple is excellent for those who would like to get away from the crowds. It's close to Kawazu Station, across the river on the west bank. There are places to sit down inside the main hall for a rest, and also lots of beautiful Goshuin for those who like to collect. They draw inside your actual book so make sure to bring your Goshuincho! If you forgot, then please purchase one there. 

As always, thank you for supporting me by reading my blog and following me on instagram. It means a lot that the effort I put into documenting travels around Japan is helpful to some of you. Not a lot of information about Japan is readily available in English, especially for locations outside of Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto, so I hope by documenting everything I can invite more people to see the beautiful side of Japan outside of the main tourist areas. 

Follow me on instagram @ariel.land for more Japan travel tips 

1 comment:

  1. Since we are talking about positive words, Shinrabansho is a positive word in Japanese that describes everything that exists in the Universe.