Enjoy early cherry blossoms in Kawazu

By Vicki L Beyer

Let's face it. By the end of February and early March, we're all really looking forward to spring. And what better harbinger of spring than Japan's famous cherry blossoms? They'll be here in just a few more weeks.

But if you really can't wait, get yourself to Kawazu on the Izu Peninsula. Thanks to its physical situation, much of the Izu Peninsula is blessed with mild temperatures. The east coast town of Kawazu, in particular, is known for its fine weather and plentiful rejuvenating hot springs. In fact, it used to be a military rest and recreation site.

Kawazu's particular claim to fame, however, is its early season cherry blossoms, which bloom from mid-February to mid-March. The trees planted along the bank of the Kawazu River for about two kilometers upstream from the ocean, with their slightly dark pink blossoms, are particularly striking. Like any popular cherry blossom viewing district, there's a party going on.

Visitors can wander along the river bank enjoying the blossoms as well as festival food, free public footbaths (very soothing!), and friendly locals. We wandered up the left bank, enjoying various forms of street food and stopping for a cup of coffee with locals prepared on an open fire. Then we crossed the river and came down the right bank, stopping off at the Mine Geyser Park just in time to see the famous geyser erupt, shooting hot water more than 30 meters into the air. (Eruptions occur hourly on the half hour--this geyser's got nothing on Old Faithful.)

Kawazu is about two hours by train from Tokyo, making it possible to get your cherry blossom fix as a day trip. But if you can spare the time to stay overnight, you can "take the waters" and further explore the Kawazu district. Head inland (upriver) to Kawazu's Nanadaru -- seven natural waterfalls created as the Kawazu River come down from Izu's mountains. You can enjoy the falls as you walk a very easy and well trodden hiking course, featured in Yasunari Kawabata's short story, "The Izu Dancer" (Izu no Odoriko). There is even a statue commemorating the character of the story standing near the trail head. You will find more cherry blossoms to enjoy here, too.

At the end of your journey, you'll find yourself feeling much more optimistic that spring is in the air.

© Japan Today

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For many in Japan, the first true sign of spring in Japan is not sakura blooming, but the blooming of the flowers of the ume tree, which usually happens during February in many parts of central and western Honshu. Indeed, the hanami tradition originally started in the viewing of ume blossoms before it became the viewing of sakura blossoms during the Nara period of recorded Japanese history.

The articlle mentions direct train service to the Kawazu area from Tokyo (thanks to the Odoriko limited express), but Japan Rail Pass holders need to be aware you have to pay a 2,130 yen supplemental fee to ride Odoriko all the way to Kawazu Station. However, if you are using the JR East Pass or JR Kanto Area Pass, there is no extra charge to reach Kawazu Station.

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thank you Raymond Chuang

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