The main island of Japan is in the midst of winter from January to February, but in Okinawa, it's already cherry blossom season! Go ahead and enjoy the cherry blossoms ahead of the others! Here are five recommended spots for viewing cherry blossoms.
1. Nakijin Castle Remains
Pink kanhizakura (Prunus campanulata, a type of cherry blossom) bloom in this World Heritage Site. Nakijin Castle Remains is always full of tourists, but has a different expression during the cherry blossom season. The Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival is held from late January to early February. Visitors are enchanted by the fantastic lights and the Gusuku Hanazakari, which guides people along the path from Heiromon Gate to the castle interior with candles. The cherry blossoms are beautiful during the day, but be sure to enjoy them at night as well.
Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival January 28, 2017 (Sat.) - February 12, 2017 (Sun) 8:00 am - 9:00 pm (last entrance at 8:30 pm)
2. Yogi Park
This is a park with a D-51 steam locomotive, and is usually crowded with locals. It is in the city, but has a river, and the rows of cherry blossoms along the pedestrian path are spectacular. Events such as minyo folk singing and hula dance are held here during the Naha Cherry Blossom Festival in mid-February, attracting many visitors. There are attractions for both adults and children, with stalls selling such items as Okinawa soba noodles (a regional Okinawa dish made using noodles made in the same way as Chinese noodles) and honey. It is close to Heiwa Dori and Tsuboya Yachimun Dori, so you may want to see them all together.
Naha Cherry Blossom Festival 2017 February 8, 2017 (Wed.) - February 12, 2017 (Sun.)
3. Nangusuku Park
The large area that encompasses Nangusuku, Sakuranosono, and Nago Chuokoen is one of Okinawa's foremost cherry blossom spots with a total of 20,000 kanhizakura cherry blossoms. A walk along the approximately 2km pedestrian path is a great way to take in the cherry blossoms. At the Nangusuku Park Visitor Center Subaco near the top, you can enjoy a fabulous view of the beautiful cherry blossoms and blue ocean that spreads out right below you. The Nago Cherry Blossom Festival, which is held in time with the cherry blossoms, is one of the prefecture's leading cherry blossom festivals and has many visitors.
Nago Cherry Blossom Festival January 28, 2017 (Sat.) - January 29, 2017 (Sun.)
4. Yaedake Sakura-no-Mori Park
Mt. Yae (Yaedake) is 453m high with roads to the top and is accessible by car as far as the Sakura-no-Mori Park halfway up the mountain. With approximately 7,000 kanhizakura cherry blossoms on both sides of the road from the foot of the mountain to the top, it is a great place to take a drive in a rental car. The Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival is held from late January, and various stalls are set up in the park during it. At Izumi, about 20 minutes away by car, you can experience picking tankan (Okinawa oranges) in season, so you may want to visit both places.
Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival January 21, 2017 (Sat.) - February 5, 2017 (Sun.)
5. Sueyoshi Park
This is a park famous for having the "standard tree" to determine when kanhizakura cherry blossoms are in bloom. In Japan, the Meteorological Agency declares the start of the cherry blossom season for each prefecture when the blossoms start to bloom. The "standard tree" is the tree that the Agency uses to make this determination. So when the cherry blossoms in this park begin to bloom, the start of the cherry blossom season in Okinawa is declared to the whole country. The park is in a metropolitan area just five minutes from Shiritsu-byoin-mae Station on Yui Rail, but has a vast ground where you can enjoy a subtropical forest and cherry blossoms. There are many cherry blossoms on the slope near the parking lot by Shiritsu-byoin-mae Station as well. Many of the paths in the park are unpaved and hilly, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
The cherry blossom season in Okinawa is still cold, so it is not common to have parties under the blossoms as in other parts of Japan. Instead, you can enjoy taking a walk while appreciating the cherry blossoms, taking pictures, and participating in festivals.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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