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Cherry blossom season starting up north

Date Posted: 2011-01-14

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

The colorful annual spectacular moves into festival mode beginning this weekend, offering spectators breathtaking views of the island's famous blooms.. The 33rd Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival kicks off Saturday, and runs through February 6th. 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.

There's a slight chill in the air, but break out the cameras, load up the car, and head north for the season's first views. You can combine the easy drive around Mount Yaedake with leisurely strolls along walking trails leading to the summit, looking at the surrounding view while appreciating the fresh spring air. Veteran cherry blossom viewers combine the scenic beauty with some practical stops along the way, picking fresh Okinawa oranges, known as tankan, as they head toward Motobu.

Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival activities kick off Saturday morning when Miss Sakura is crowned, and the Motobu Junior High School brass band plays. Formal events Sunday begin morning, with the events at Yaedake Forest Cherry Blossom Park just outside Motobu Town.

Nakijin Castle Park Cherry Blossom Festival keeps the focus on beautiful views the following weekend, January 22nd until February 6th. There's a エ400 admission fee to the castle ruins for adults, while school students payエ300.

After that, Nago City's version of the cherry blossom festival takes place on the last weekend of January, a two-day event featuring everything from local bands to singers to children and a parade. The 49th annual festival involves most of the northern Okinawa community. The sakura season's best viewing runs through mid-February, days beyond the official festival.

To the south, the Yaese Town Cherry Blossom Festival is January 27th. Yaese, in southeastern Okinawa, is a town created last year by a merger between Gushikami and Kochinda.
The lure of cherry blossoms can be satisfied without the long northerly drive. The Shuri Castle Cherry Blossom Festival will be late January, at Shuri Castle Park in Naha City. The three-day festival will operate daily from 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m.. Admission is エ800 for adults, エ600 for high school students and エ300 for junior high school and elementary students.

The Cost
The beauty is free at the northern Okinawa Cherry Blossom Festivals. 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 Nago Cherry Blossom Festival is pretty much an all-day excursion, partly because of the walking, viewing, eating and listening to the music, but also because of the traffic. We noted before the traffic is heavy, because you're not the only one wanting to see the cherry blossoms. Take the Expressway north to its end, at Kyodo, just south of Nago. Follow the traffic to Central Nago. We recommend you park well away from the festival site, both for reasons of cost, but also the ease of getting away when it's time to go home. There will be many parking areas with people trying to get your attention to park. From the bases, plan on at least one hour travel time to get there. Don't forget to have the little ones make their pottie breaks before leaving home.

To visit Mount Yaedake, follow the same route, but instead of turning right at Nago Central Park, continue north and turn left to Prefectural Road 84. Then follow the English language signs to Mount Yaedake. As you head toward Mount Yaedake, you'll also see the signs for the Nakijin Castle Cherry Blossom Festival.

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