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Cherry blossom season begins

By: by Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-01-14

Cherry blossoms are blooming into season in northern Okinawa, a few days ahead of the normal seasonal schedule.

The colorful annual spectacular moves into festivals mode beginning this weekend, offering spectators breathtaking views of the islandís famous blooms.. The 32nd Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival kicks off Saturday, and runs through February 14th. More than 7,000 sakura (cherry blossoms) are displaying their brilliant pinks from the base of Mount Yaedake, upward to the peak 453 meters up.

Break out the cameras, load up the car, and head north for the seasonís first views. You can combine the easy drive around Mount Yaedake with leisurely strolls along walking trails leading to the summit, looking at the ocean seas while appreciating the fresh spring air. Veteran cherry blossom viewers combine the scenic beauties with some practical stops along the way, picking fresh Okinawa oranges, known as tangan, as you head toward Motobu.

Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival activities kick off Saturday morning at 9:20 a.m. with the Race for the Lucky Charm Catch. At11:40 a.m., the Childrenís Tug-of-War takes place, followed by the Motobu Elementary School Childrenís Brass Band Performance. Opening ceremonies are at 2 p.m., followed by ceremonies at 3:10 p.m. when Miss Sakura is crowned 4 p.m. Karaoke Tournament and a 5:40 p.m. Taiko Drums performance by Motobu children round out the day.

Formal events Sunday begin at 11 a.m. with a kids show. Live music by the Senagawa Sisters begins at 12:25 p.m., followed by live music with Te-Da at 1:55 p.m. Thereíll be a street dance at 3:25 p.m., followed by more live music at 4:10 p.m. and a folk music tournament at 5 p.m.

The events are at Yaedake Forest Cherry Blossom Park in Motobu cho. Shuttle busses will run the big weekend, January 27th~30th, between the parking areas and the top of the mountain where thereíll be all sorts of lucky charms, foods and souvenir products for sale.

The Nakijin Castle Cherry Blossom Festival runs January 22nd through February 7th, and the Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival starts January 30th and runs through the month of February. Yaese, in southeastern Okinawa, is a town created in 2006 by a merger between Gushikami and Kochinda.

The Cost

The beauty is free. All else takes yen to purchase. As with all festivals, there are food and beverage vendors, game stands, and of course, souvenir shops and stands.

Getting There

The Mt. Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival is pretty much an in-your-car excursion, but there are typical festival food, beverage and souvenir stands. Take the Expressway north to its end, at Kyodo, just south of Nago. Continue on Hwy 58 through Nago and turn left to Prefectural Road 84. Then follow the English language signs to Mount Yaedake near Motobu Town.

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