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Blossoms in full bloom in Okinawa north

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-01-30

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom in the Nago area, and the weatherman is promising to cooperate with this weekend’s opening of the 47th Nago Cherry Blossom Festival.

Good timing, too, as the Nago Cherry Blossom Festival, and a second at nearby Nakijin Castle are not-to-be-missed events. Weather prognosticators say there’s only a 20% chance of rain on the weekend festivities, and temperatures are forecast to be around 20C (68F). For those new to the island, Cherry Blossom festivals rank as some of the most beautiful events of the year, with Mother Nature showing her colors with the traditional flowers.

Some 20,000 Taiwan cherry trees are blooming at Nago, where the festival takes place in the central park region, just below Nago Castle ruins. The beautiful pink blossoms fill the trees lined up along the 2km roadway. Visitors can walk from the park up the side of the mountain to the castle ruins, checking out the castle observatory and looking down at the emerald green waters of the East China Sea.

A full range of festival activities take place January 31st through February 1st, including parades, entertainment, marching bands, a karaoke contest and masquerades. There’s a recreation playground for the small fry, an area extremely popular with the younger set.

The tempo picks up this weekend at Nakijin Castle, the second largest castle on Okinawa, where the Cherry Blossom Festival began last Friday. It runs through February 8th. As with Nago Castle, the view from Nakijin, which is on the World Heritage Register, is breathtaking with the contrasts of the castle ruins, cherry blossoms, the lush green forest and the view of the East China Sea.

Nakijin’s festivities Saturday include Ryukyu classical music and dance, rolling on into Eisaa and traditional Okinawa dance, drum dances and choral music through February 8th. Organizers are offering free cherry tea throughout the festival.

The two events draw hundreds of thousands, so don’t expect to be alone. We’d recommend good walking shoes or sneakers for the treks up well marked and paved roads and walkways, and whatever you do, don’t forget the cameras.

The Cost

The beauty is absolutely free. Everything else requires yen to make purchases. As with all festivals, there are plenty of food and beverage vendors, game stands, and of course, souvenir books.

Getting There

Taking in the cherry blossom festivals is a full-day excursion, partially due to traffic and the rest just wandering the cherry blossom tree routes. Take the Expressway north to its end, Kyodo, just south of Nago. Follow traffic to Central Nago, and then again as it turns right to Central park. We’d recommend parking away from the festival site, both for reasons of cost and ease of getting away when ready to head home. From the military bases, plan on 1½ hours minimum to get there.

To visit Nakijin Castle, go through the Nago City Center, then turn left on Highway 84, heading west. Shortly before Ocean Expo Park, turn right on Highway 449 and you’re two kilometers away. The route is clearly marked.

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