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Golden sunflowers herald Himawari Festival

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-01-19

The vivid yellow-gold colors of sunflowers are making their presence known in Okinawa, and the Kitanakagusuku Village area is hosting a festival to celebrate.

About 40,000 sunflowers begun in plantations in central Okinawa are in bloom, and horticulturists say now’s a great time to see them. The plantations at Adaniya and Ogidou, a total of about 10,000 square meters, are just in time for the “Sunflowers in Kitanakagusuku” festival sponsored by the Sunflowers in Kitanakagusuku Executive Committee last week.

The sunflower, which is indigenous to America before migrating to Asia via Europe in the 16th century, is enjoying sunshine’s return after being impeded by cool temperatures and rain, their huge, fiery blooms tracking the sun daily from east to west. Mainland Japan is celebrating the sunflower’s bright color with the Kitose Himawari Festival, which will also see the sunflower and its broad, coarsely toothed and rough leaves and circular flower heads consisting of 1,000-2,000 individual flowers linked at the receptacle base.

The weather turned bright and sunny several days ago, bringing hundreds of children who live in the area, as well as tourists, to visit and take pictures. The sunflowers organization chairman, Hisakatsu Oshiro, thinks the sunflowers are beginning to bloom nicely, noting “the sunflowers are getting ready, so please come and see these perfect sunflowers.”

The sunflower’s popularity was enhanced when its flavorful oils were squeezed out and the product became a widespread cooking ingredient. Sunflower leaves aren’t wasted, either, being used for cattle feed and the fibrous stems for paper production.
Sunflowers often grow to 1.5~5 meters (5-12’) tall, withThe flower petals within the sunflower's cluster are usually in a spiral pattern. Generally, each floret is oriented toward the next with typically, 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; on a very large sunflower there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other.

The Sun Flower in Kitanakagusuku Festival begins Saturday and runs through February 5th, and admission is free at Kitanakagusuku Himawari Field near the Kitanakagusuku Junior High School.

Saturday also marks the beginning of cherry blossom season in northern Okinawa. Festivals at Nakijin Castle Park run 8 a.m. ~ 9 p.m., while the Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival in Motobu’s Yaedake Cherry Blossom Park is open each day through February 5th. Admission is free.

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