Shingashi-gawa (Kawagoe), Boat cruise on the river during the sakura season


The River Under The Cherry Trees In Kawagoe

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Shingashi-gawa is a river circling around the historical center of Kawagoe, a city in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture. In spring, strollers are attracted to its banks covered in blooming cherry trees and boat cruises are organized exclusively for the city’s inhabitants.

The Shingashi-gawa is an affluent of the Ara-kawa and Sumida rivers and it merges with them in Akabane neighborhood, in Tokyo’s northern Kita Ward. A few kilometers upstream, it flows through Kawagoe and offers a natural limit to the north-east of the city’s historical center.

Shingashi-gawa (Kawagoe), Stroll under the blooming cherry trees along the river

An ancient river transport

Engineering works on the water stream started with Matsudaira Nobutsuna (1596 – 1662), the daimyo lord ruling the Kawagoe domain at the beginning of the Edo period (1603 – 1868). The Shingashi-gawa was then used as a waterway to quickly connect Edo by boat, the new capital of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate. The works’ 1rst objective was to help reconstructing the city, and mainly its Senba Toshogu mausoleum next to Kita-in temple, after the Great Fire 🔥 of Kanei in 1638.

Afterwards, the Shingashi river bolstered the development of local trade through river transport of goods. Kawagoe sent agricultural produces, such as soy sauce, cotton seeds, sage and wood; and imported from Edo clothing, combustible fat and oils, tiles, sugar, salt, vegetables and dried fish among other things.

This transportation route was in use for nearly 300 years, until 1931. Improvement works have been made to increase the water flow but to the detriment of the river bed’s depth and navigating big ships has become impossible. Then, the progression of railway definitely put an end to the commercial activity on the river, that was returned to a quietness favorable to strolling.

Shingashi-gawa (Kawagoe), Branches of blooming cherry trees extending above the river

Sakura spot in Kawagoe

The part of the river lined with numerous somei yoshino cherry trees is located in the extended area of Kawagoe Hikawa-jinja shrine, at Hikawa-bashi bridge (氷川橋). The Shingashi Riverbank Cherrry Blossoms, stretching on about 500 meters long, surprises with the beauty of the ephemeral display, in a flowering peak usually taking place in the last days of March. The pale pink of the flowers above the water and the new tender green lawn on the banks create an enjoyable contrast.

Locals are very familiar to this sakura 🌸 viewing spot, but not foreign tourists; its surroundings are therefore always easy to navigate and enjoyable even on the weekends. Kawagoe’s most informed and luckiest inhabitants may have gotten a seat in one of the small boats sailing on the river during spring.

On a good weather day, we recommend exploring further Kawagoe up to the Shingashi river for its bucolic and more tranquil ambiance. Walking along the river is also a nice way to go to the former site of Kawagoe Castle 🏯 from Hikawa-jinja shrine.

⬇️ Further down this page, discover our visit guide in Shingashi-gawa and around.
By Kanpai Updated on March 29, 2024 Shingashi-gawa