If you were to pass through the town of Kawazu by train, you could be forgiven for not paying all that much attention. Tucked along the coast of Japan's Izu peninsula, it looks like many other coastal towns in the country. But as is often the case, looks can be deceiving. Each spring the town of Kawazu boasts one of Japan's most special events - the Kawazu cherry blossom festival.
While most of the nation will be waiting for late March and early April to celebrate these festivals, the Kawazu sakura (cherry blossoms) not only begin blooming in February, but can be viewed over the course of a full month. Yet, perhaps the most unique element to this breed of sakura is their deep pink hue. From February to March, a vibrant pink covers many of the trees in Kawazu, the majority of which line the river in the town for several kilometers. Walking along the paved path on either side of the river or relaxing along the river banks below, visitors are treated to one of creation's most amazing spectacles, as the pink petals surround people in all directions.
Just as the blossoms themselves are unique, so is Kawazu's festival to celebrate them. Of course there are the typical festival foods of Japan like yakitori and ice cream, but there also many local treats from freshly caught seafood to handpicked produce. Visitors wishing to get away from the crowds for a bit can enjoy seeing the original Kawazu sakura tree, only a short distance from the river. To top it all off, a free hot spring foot bath is available to soak your feet when you need a break from all the walking. I speak from experience when I say you may end up there longer than you expect!
According to a health app on my phone, I walked around 17 kilometers (over 10 miles) on my first day at the festival, and I think it would be easy to top that. After that much exploration, a relaxing place to lay your head for the night is a must. I was fortunate enough to spend my evening at the nearby Izu Imaihama Tokyu Resort. With the free shuttle service between Kawazu Station and the resort, it was convenient and hospitable before I even got there, but there was must more in store upon arrival.
From architecture to landscaping, service to amenities, the Imaihama Tokyu Resort is nothing short of luxurious. I was staying as part of the resort's Comfort Member program as well, which includes several additional perks such as discounted rates and late check out - an option you will most certainly want to take advantage of after spending some time here!
The Izu Imaihama Tokyu Resort is located right on the coastline of the Izu Peninsula, with its own beach and beautiful views to accompany it. Even on the overcast day that I traveled the views were spectacular, so I can only imagine how amazing it must be in more pleasant weather. But even if sand and ocean waves aren't your thing, the resort still has plenty to offer.
Perhaps my favorite part of the time at the resort was the onsen, or public hot spring bath. While many foreigners may feel shy at first, if you can get past this, a new world of relaxation awaits you in the resort onsen. Sitting in these heated waters, all the tension and aches of a day spent exploring fade away like the steam rising from the waters themselves. This resort even offers an enclosed outdoor bath, where you can both enjoy the naturally heated waters and the sound of ocean waves crashing against the nearby shore.
Of course, no trip to a resort would be complete without some delicious food, and the Imaihama Tokyu Resort was prepared to impress. I enjoyed the French restaurant "Shangri La," which serves a multi-course meal with everything from juicy beef to pressé de colocase - a dish as flavorful as it is colorful. Other restaurants include the "Azuma" restaurant with Japanese cuisine, and the "Maikohama" restaurant which specializes in steaks. With the lounge area and other offerings besides, it's safe to say your senses will be pleased. Don't forget to enjoy the well rounded buffet style breakfast in the morning as well - it's a great way to start off another day of exploration.
There's much more I could say of both the festival and the resort, but to put it simply: a trip to the Kawazu sakura festival matched with a stay at the Izu Imaihama Tokyu Resort is the kind of combination that makes travel worthwhile. While the big cities like Tokyo or Osaka have much to offer, this is the kind of journey you can only make far away from it all. What I said before is true: the town of Kawazu could be easy to miss. But if you make the trip, I can guarantee it will be impossible to forget.