Head about three hours south of Tokyo to get a month’s head start on the spring-heralding blooms.

Lying towards the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, the Shizuoka city of Kawazu has plenty of hot springs, but that isn’t its greatest, or most colorful, claim to fame. That would be the fact that it’s already getting itself decked out in the resplendent blossoms that we tend to expect only in March and April.

That’s right: cherry blossoms have already come to Kawazu. As a recent piece on Architectural Digest points out, the cherry trees that grow here are a special breed, known as Kawazuzakura, and not only do they bloom early, they bloom an extraordinarily deep pink, as you can see from a few of the pictures below.


With a feathered friend (Instagram user @toshizou02)


Framing the ever-photogenic Mt. Fuji (Instagram user @mika05011972)


Being appreciated by the Instagram dynamic duo of Yu and Toro (Instagram user @yuandtoro)


Lit up along the riverside by night (Instagram user @oshimaf1.0)


Being slightly outshined by one dope ’73 Cadillac (Instagram user @73cady)

Now, if you can make your way down to Kawazu, you’ll want to move pretty quickly, as the pink is already at its peak, and never lasts longer than a pair of weeks. For the rest of the country, the best is yet to come.

The Japan Meteorological Corporation put out its forecast and a detailed breakdown of its cherry blossom prediction methods, which you can dive into here. One of our favorite terms is the spiritual sounding “cherry tree awakening level,” which just sounds pretty cool.

Given the importance of sakura season in Japan, it should come as no surprise that there has been an impressive amount of research dedicated to this colorful phenomenon. One interesting tidbit that we picked up from the JMC is that the timing of this year’s flowering is dependent upon the on the weather patterns of last fall.

You can check out the JMC’s smartphone app “Sakura Kimochi (Cherry Blossom Feeling)” on the iTunes and Google Play stores for free. These, and their forecast, should help you get your sakura travel schedule together.

Something to keep in mind for next year: should you have the time, head down to Okinawa – along with their uniquely engaging people, the islands are known for their early-blooming cherry trees, which get going as early as January.

Staying local? For a full-bloom listing of some great places to do your cherry blossom viewing around the city, check out our Tokyo hanami guide.

Main Image: Instagram user tsumizo.