Japan's cherry blossom season starts here

Photo courtesy of OCVB
Photo courtesy of OCVB

Japan's cherry blossom season starts here

by: David Hurwitz | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: January 25, 2013

Editor's Note: Folks, times running out, so take some time this weekend to smell the ... blossoms.

Cherry blossoms are the national flowers of Japan. Their importance is such that they are entwined with many aspects of Japanese culture, from art and flower arranging to poetry and song. Their short blooming period, suggesting the transience of life and the beauty of that brief time, is an integral part of Japanese philosophy, as is the sadness that arises when their petals begin to fall.

But for most people, they are merely beautiful, and a wonderful reason to visit a park with friends and family and enjoy the beginning of spring. It is the perfect time for Americans on Okinawa to experience the Japanese custom of “hanami,” or cherry blossom viewing, and to party beneath the pink canopy of cherry trees.

The cherry blossoms in Okinawa are the earliest bloomers in Japan, with the springlike weather in January and February causing an explosion of color in parks and wooded areas. There are beautiful places to see them on island; here are some of the most famous.

Motobu Yaedake Sakura Matsuri
Until Feb. 3
Yaedake Park, Motobu Town

On the Motobu Peninsula in the northern region of mainland Okinawa, Motobu is hosting the 35th annual Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival. Yaedake Park boasts nearly 7,000 Taiwanese cherry trees that bloom fully in mid-January. It offers a view of 453-meter-high Mount Yae blanketed in pink blossoms. This event also features entertainment and food booths. The mountain is accessible by car or on foot. For more information, call 0980-47-2700.

Nakijin-gusuku Sakura Matsuri
Until Feb. 3
Nakijin Castle Site, Nakijin Village

Nakijin Castle, or Nakijin-jo, is a World Heritage site 6 kilometer east of Ocean Expo Park and about 13 km north-northwest of Nago City. This restored 13-centry landmark is on a hilltop offering beautiful vistas, and is home to an array of Taiwanese cherry trees that come into full bloom in late January or early February. For more information, call 0980-56-4400.

Naha Sakura Matsuri 2013
Feb. 13-17
Yogi Park, Naha City

Just 15 minutes from Naha Airport in central Naha City, Naha Sakura Matsuri offers a chance to view 400 cherry blossom trees while strolling along the river. The blossoming peeks for two weeks in early February, offering one of the last opportunities on island to view cherry blossoms annually. Naha Sakura Matsuri also features booths selling plants, flowers and food.
For more information, call 098-855-2552.

Yaese Sakura Matsuri
Feb 3 (illuminations until Feb. 3)
Yaese Park, Yaese Town

Nightly illuminations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Yaese Park culminate in the seventh annual Yaese Sakura Matsuri. In addition to cherry blossoms for viewing, local agricultural will be on display and for sale. For more information, call 098-998-2668.

Kumejima Sakura Matsuri
Until Feb. 3
Kume Island

On Kumejima (Kume Island) Darumayama-enchi picnic area and Ara forest road the two best places to view cherry blossoms. While Darumayama offers some 500 cherry blossom trees in bloom, there are about 1,500 such trees lining 4-kelometer Ara road. For more information, call 098-896-7010.