April 9th fireworks to usher in beach season
In mainland Japan, fireworks (hanabi) are linked to summertime, when the skies are lit up throughout July and August.
If you turn on a TV around that time of the year, you’ll see many commercials where young ladies in yukatas, which are summer kimonos, seated on the riverside watching fireworks light up the sky while holding a cold can of beer in their hand.
Or if you tune in to Japanese radio shows, many pop-songs lament over how transient love in summer can be just like fireworks in the night sky. These references have become common to the point of being cliché. But they are embedded so deep in the collective memory of the people, that we still crave for beer when we see sparks falling from the sky, and summer-time memories seem to be tinged with sadness, as far as young lovers go.
However, here in Okinawa, the “official” season for fireworks kicks off in early April with the annual colorful sky spectacle that is now part of the festivities signifying the opening of the island’s beaches. The event lets people know that it’s time to put on sunscreen, grab a swimsuit and head to the sandy shores.
It’s been 12 years since Ryukyu Kaiensai (aka Ryukyu Hanabi illusion) debuted in Okinawa with its 10,000 fireworks painting beautiful colors across the night sky. Before the initial event in 2004, large spring fireworks displays were not common, even in Okinawa.
But now, Ryukyu Kaiensai has become a big part of the local scene. Each year the Ginowan Seaside Park, the venue of this event, is packed with more than 10,000 people. Another estimated 100,000 stare up at the sky show from inside and outside the venue!
To tell you the truth, I used to be one of them who enjoyed the event from outside. I still remember the huge fireworks lighting up the sky as I sat on a balcony of my apartment, which is just a 10-minute drive from the venue.
It’s OK to enjoy the fireworks from the outside, but if you claim to be a hardcore “party person” the admission fee is definitely worth it because the fireworks are computer-controlled to be lit off to music ranging from pop songs by Justin Bieber and Avicii, to Star Wars theme music and opera. I am sure you would start dancing to the music as the fireworks explode above!
Although it doesn’t have a long history like Sumida River Fireworks Festival or Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival, the Ryukyu Kaiensai is now a can’t-miss event to celebrate the arrival of the Okinawan heat. So head over to Ginowan Seaside Park on April 9 to check out the fun!
The success of the event in a way changed how we celebrate beach openings in Okinawa. As if being inspired by the hugely popular fireworks festival, there are more events scheduled this year, including “The Year of Wishes” parade at Churasun Beach on March 27 in Itoman City. Whether you witness cute characters of Disney marching on the beach with your kids, or dance with you friends under the 10,000 fireworks, it will be all about fun and entertainment. That’s how we enjoy the arrival of summer in Okinawa.
Date: April 9 (SAT) 2016
Time: Main Gate opens at 15:30. The Show starts at 19:30 ※This is a rain-or-shine event. In case of strong wind and rain, it will be postponed to Sunday April 10.
Location: Ginowan Seaside Park/Tropical Beach (4-2 Mashiki, Ginowan, Okinawa 901-2224)
Tickets are available at http://eplus.jp/rks/
For more info, log on to http://www.ryukyu-kaiensai.com/archive/2016/spring/en/
Opening: March 19: Kariyushi Beach is a beautiful beach where you can enjoy the quality emerald-green water of the East China Sea and white sands. The beach faces on west, so you can enjoy a beautiful sunset view. The beach is divided into swimming and marine sports areas, and the swimming area opens on this day. More than 100,000 people visit the beach every year for a variety of facilities rides, such as flying boat, dragon boat and boat snorkel.
Location: 1996 Kise, Nago-shi (5-10 minute drive from Kyoda I.C. of Okinawa Expressway)
Time: Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Opening: March 19: Although being located adjacent to the site of Fusaki Resort Village in Ishigakijima island, no stay is required to enjoy this natural beach, where sea turtles come to lay eggs. Gears for marine activities such as dragon boat, jet ski bike, sea kayak with transparent board, standup paddle board are available. Ice cream and discounts for such activities to be offered on the beach opening day.
Location: 1625 Arakawa, Ishigaki 907-0024
Time: Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (from March 19 through May 31), 9 a.m. -6:30 p.m. (rom June 1 through September 30) 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (From October 1 through October 30)
Opening: March 19: Beach-opening of the season is a great chance to swim and enjoy other marine activities. There will be many attractions, such as having fun at Ocean Park floating in the ocean, banana boat rides, ocean viewing by boats and more at ANA International Continental Ishigaki Resort on Ishigaki island.
Location: 354-1 Maesato Ishigaki city 907-0002 (20-minite drive from New Ishigaki Airport. )
Time: Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Opening: March 18: Located on the southern coastline of Miyakojima island, this beautiful beach offers a relaxed mood that makes you feel like being on a private beach. Gears for marine activities such as sea kayak, snorkel, diving are available. Lime-rock cabana, which is available for 8640 yen per day, will give you a nice shade and let you enjoy nice breeze and the sound of ocean surf.
Location: 1405-214 Shinzato, Ueno, Miyakojima city 906-0202
Time: The beach house is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Opening: March 19: The blue ocean of this small island offers an exceptional view. You can enjoy marine activities such as snorkeling, jet ski bike, banana boat and water skiing.
Location: 2930 Kohama, Taketomi-cho, Yaemaya 907-1292, 10-minute drive from Kohama Port
Time: Open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Opening: March 27: Located right next to Resort Hotel Bel Paraiso in Nakijin village, this beach offers a beautiful view of Kourijima island. Activities such as sea kayak, banana boat, jet ski bike are available.
Location: 1069 Unten, Nakijin, Kunigami 905-0403
Time: Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Opening: March 27: On this day, festivities such as dragon boat race and all-you-can-grab- fish competition will be held. Activities such as wakeboard, jet ski bike, stand-up paddle boat, and banana boat are available.
Location: 913 Okuma, Kunigami, Kunigami 905-1412
Time: Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Opening: April 3: This beach is just 30 minute drive from Kadena Air Base. Right next to Cape Zanpa. Various activities are available such as banana boat, fly board, jet ski bike, and wakeboard.
Location:1575 Uza Yomitan 904-0328, 15 minute drive from Torii Station
Time: Open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Opening: April 8: Right next to American village in Chatan town, this beach will be good place to do BBQ or relax after your shopping.
Location: 2 Mihama, Chatan 904-0115
Time: Open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Opening: April 10: A beautiful beach on the east coast of the island. Activities such as wakeboard, banana boat, jet ski bike, and fly board are available.
Location: 405 Ikei, Yonashiro, Uruma 904-2421
Time: Open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Tokyo Disney Sea
15th Anniversary Special Parade
“The Year of Wishes” / We are One Tomigusuku Parade
Date: March 27 (SUN) 2016
Time: Parade starts at 11 a.m.
Location: Toyosaki Churasun Beach (5-1 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku, Okinawa)
Website: www.churasun-beach.com (Japanese)
TEL: 098-850-1139 (Japanese)
– Stripes Okinawa