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Blossoms in full bloom this year in Nago

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-01-27

The cherry blossoms are sporting their stuff on Okinawa’s northern slopes.

The colorful cherry blossoms are actually a few days ahead of schedule for the 44th Annual Nago Cherry Blossom Festival, which happens this weekend.

Organizers are smiling both at the large numbers of blossoms and the promises of terrific weather for the Saturday-Sunday festivities. Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60’s are forecast, a far cry from the dark skies, rain and drizzle that hung over the island last year.

The Cherry Blossom festival ranks as one of the top events of the year for Okinawa newcomers, with the traditional sakura blossoms showing off at their very best through the first week in February. The cherry blossoms will be on the trees, though, at both Nago and nearby Mount Yaedake through late February. The colorful flowers will begin moving south as February unfolds, brightening the capital city of Naha.

This weekend’s festivities kick off Saturday with opening ceremonies at 11am. Leave home early, as traffic is slow and hectic as you drive north.

The ceremonies take place at Nago Castle site, near the Torii Gate. Local bands will perform both days from 1pm to 8:30pm. on a stage near the base of the mountain. The Nago City Children’s Parade is at 3pm, and the youth groups parade and dance kicks off at 6pm.

Sunday’s entertainment gets under way at 2pm with a masquerade parade in front of Marudai Supermarket. Bands will play at the center stage throughout the afternoon, stepping aside at 5pm for Okinawan Dance. The Nago City cherry daiko drums parade winds its way through the city beginning at 6pm Sunday.

The Cherry Blossom Festival centers at the base of Nago castle, the expansive home to the local Aji chieftain of the 14th century. That area is now Nago Central Park, where thousands of Taiwan cherry trees annually show their colors. This year, more than 200,000 pink Taiwan cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

A second cherry blossoms viewing area focuses on Mount Yaedake, also in the Nago area. More than 4,000 Taiwan cherry trees are blossoming now just to the west of Nago City. Mount Yaedake is the island’s second highest point, a climb to 453.4 meters. The area features more than cherry blossoms; it’s a locale famous as the orchids capital of Okinawa. A winding four-kilometer road presents you all the beauties Mother Nature can offer.

Good walking shoes or sneakers are recommended for the treks up the well marked and paved roads and walkways to the top of the mountain, where there is a spectacular view of not only the cherry blossoms, but of Nago City and the brilliant shimmering waters of the East China Sea. This event attracts tens of thousands of locals each year, in addition to the foreign visitors.

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 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, then again as it turns right to Central Park. 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 another kilometer to Prefectural Road 84. Turn left, then follow the English language signs to Mount Yaedake.

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