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Yuri Matsuri showcases 1,000,000+ lilies

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-04-22

The Yuri Matsuri, the 15th annual Ie Island Lily Festival, is literally in full bloom, with more than one million Easter lilies on display for visitors to the northwest Okinawa Island.

The Easter lilies, teppoyuri, are Ie Island’s symbol and are now in full bloom. The Lily Festival runs through May 5th, attracting tens of thousands of tourists and locals to the colorful festival that extends through Golden Week. Ie Island is located west of Motobu on the northwest coast just west of Nago City. The festival began a week ago, just as the Easter lilies blossomed and began dispersing their sweet fragrance.

From an entertainment standpoint, this is the big weekend coming up. Excitement begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the Ie Island taiko drum and Eisa dance performance at Ie Lily Field Park, followed at 3 p.m. by the Hiroto Tamahito street performance. There’s a dance group performance at 3:40 p.m. and the Ie Island Song and Dance Performance at 5 p.m. Tomoya Oshiro is live on stage at 7 p.m., followed by the Kenichiro Mikawa Concert at 8 p.m.

Sunday entertainment kicks off at 1 p.m. with a live radio broadcast, followed at 4 p.m. by a karaoke contest, then an Eisa performance at 6 p.m. A live music concert begins at 8 p.m. at Ie Lily Field Park.

The lilies are the centerpiece, and visitors can wander the paths at will, stopping to take pictures, listen to the soothing sounds of the water surrounding the eight-square-mile island, and pausing for a bite of food from one of many vendors along the way. At one end of the lily fields there’s even a small petting farm complete with ostriches, ponies, pigs, goats, chickens and more, all loads of fun for the kids.

Sparsely populated Ie Island, with its 5,000 residents, is a farming island that’s also known for its monument for war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Pyle died in a hail of Japanese machine gun fire on the island on April 18th, 1945, while covering the Battle of Okinawa. The monument to Ernie Pyle is only one of three in Japan that was permitted to remain following Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese control in 1972.

Tobacco is a major crop for Ie islanders, while beef is raised on the 20 kilometer circumference island. Fishing and raising fish are other Ie Island enterprises, along with being the site of a U.S. military airfield. Of course, the lilies, daffodils, hibiscus and chrysanthemum are floral delights all being raised on the island.

An Ie Island visit is a two-part process. Travel along the Okinawa Expressway to the northern terminus at Kyoda, and then on through Nago City on Highway 58. Turn left to Motobu on Route 449, heading to the Motobu Ferry Port. Ferries run frequently from Motobu to Ie Island, starting at 9 a.m. At least five run daily, but more are scheduled in the days ahead to handle Golden Week crowds. The last ferries depart at 5 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., depending on the day.

Ferries to Ie Island from Motobu are ¥700 one way or ¥1,330 round trip for adults, and ¥350 one way and ¥670 for kids. On Ie Island, bus transportation from the ferry terminal to Ie Lily Park costs ¥200 each way. Bikes, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and cars can travel the ferries for the half-hour trip to Ie Island. Round trip cost for a bicycle is ¥1,160, ¥1,500 for a moped, ¥1,960 for a motor scooter and ¥2,420 for a motorcycle. Costs for cars range from ¥4,600 for a 3-meter-long car to ¥9,450 for a 5-6 meter van or SUV.

On Ie Island, tour buses seats may be booked at (098) 049-2053, and taxis at (098) 049-2105. Motorcycle rentals can be reserved at (090) 9781-3063, and car rentals booked at (098) 049-5208.

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