While Japan has celebrations for each of its distinct seasons, you'd find little argument against the Spring's sakura (cherry blossom) season being the most emblematic of the country's natural beauty. Every year people from all over the country gather under cherry blossom trees to admire the scenery and charm around them in a picnic-like activity called hanami, or flower-viewing. While Japan's cherry blossoms don't bloom until late March-early April, those willing to head to the Izu Peninsula can witness the stunning sight of Kawazu-zakura--one of the earliest and most gorgeous opportunities to see full bloom cherry blossoms in Japan.

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Kawazu City, located in Shizuoka prefecture, is the site of one of Japan's earliest cherry blossom festivals, and this year benefited from an especially early bloom (February 15th) that will run into early March. Roughly 8,000 cherry blossom trees (an early flowering type) line the banks of the Kawazu River, providing a beautiful sakura road and archway of cherry blossoms for festival attendees to stroll through. After taking in their beauty during the day, those fortunate enough to stay later can witness brilliant nighttime illuminations that turn the river into a glowing bed of cherry blossom petals.

Here are some breathtaking highlights from people already pouring into the venue this year!

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Here's a look at peak hanami times around the country.

If you're ever in Japan around this time of year and want to scratch your sakura itch a little earlier than people in other areas can, head over to the Kawazu-zakura festival in Kawazu. You can find a map on the official site's access page, or by accessing the Izukyu Railway. It's located roughly two and a half hours away from Tokyo, but definitely worth a visit!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.