Thursday, February 18, 2016

::SPECIAL:: #Travel♪ The Very First Saku! Exploring Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa




#Travel♪The Very First Saku (blooming)! Exploring Cherry 
Blossoms in Okinawa

Cherry blossoms are a flower of the Japanese Cherry tree 
(Prunus serrulata) and are believed to have originally come 
from the Himalayas. They hold a special place in the 
culture of Japan because they're known as the national 
flower of Japan and any event involving cherry blossoms or 
"sakura", as they're known in Japanese, is sure to be a major event. 

Every year sakura enthusiasts follow the forecast for when 
they'll bloom (yes they actually have sakura forecasts) and 
gather on the day to enjoy the beautiful display. This gathering 
to see cherry blossoms is known as "hanami" in Japanese and 
it's actually something that's been going on in Japan for 
hundreds of years. 

The blooming of sakura is actually connected to
 warmer weather with the warmest parts of Japan seeing the
 first bloom.  This is why Okinawa is well known for having the
 first cherry blossoms in Japan. 




There's many places each year to see Cherry blossom 
displays in Okinawa some of which include beautiful
 lighting displays to liven up the cherry blossoms 
during the night:

 38th Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival
1/23〜2/7
website:

 9th Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival – 
World Heritage Nakijin Castle Ruins and Cherry Light Up
1/23〜2/7
*Light Up (Entrance Fee) Jan. 23rd, 2016 – Feb. 7th, 2016 18:00-21:00
Website:

 54th Annual Nago Cherry Blossom Festival
1/30〜1/31
Website:

 Uruma City Nuri River Cherry Blossom Festival
2/13〜2/14
Website:

 Naha Chura Cherry Blossom Festival
2/13〜2/14
Website:

 10th Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival
2/7/2016
 *Light Up Period Jan. 22nd – Feb. 7th
Website:


*All dates are subject to change each year*

Due to overlapping times and the distance between the 
festivals for this journey we decided to only visit  the 9th Annual 
Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival. 









Nakijin Castle

Set on weathered castle grounds and a World Heritage site, 
Najijin Castle is just the place for history buffs to go crazy 
about. The grounds itself are strategically set on the top of a 
lone hill with natural elements such as rivers, cliffs and a 
large valley acting as security for this former Ryukyu 
Kingdom governor's former residence.

The Ruins are about 2 hrs North by car from the capital 
of Okinawa, Naha. The best method to reach the castle 
grounds is by car, taking the tolled highway and utilizing
 the on-site free parking. 

Address:
5101, Imadomari, Nakjin Village, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, 905-0428
Phone:
0980-56-4400
Website:


Admission:





A Fortress built for a King

Soon as we walked in we felt a sense of awe reveling in
 all that was around us. How could people on such a small
 island with not as many resources have built something so
 great in the 13th and 14th century that still stands today?..




Cherry Blossoms spotted!

After walking in the front gates we were greeted with 
our very first cherry blossom!^^ 

Unlike the cherry blossoms elsewhere, the blossoms in 
Okinawa don't quite bloom as much so if you're looking to 
be completely covered in cherry blossoms don't be disappointed!





Poetic Beauty

Though the trees weren't exactly full of the flowers, 
they created a lovely backdrop set against the green of the 
other leaves in the area. Hanami is a very popular pastime 
in Japan so be prepared to battle for your pics.^^



Inner Grounds

As you make your way into the fortress, you'll be amazed by 
the sheer amount of open space. Sure there used to be a 
lot here in terms of interior structures but the size is quite 
daunting. The over 1500 meters of limestone walls that 
still remain of the original castle are a result of precision 
craftsmanship over 600 years ago! 

This location is also at the apex of the hill so you can get 
the best views of the surrounding area!

Let's take a look^^ 




360 Degrees of Amazing

Every angle you look from you can't help but love the idea 
of building a castle on the top of a hill! We sure do! 




Blue Skies Give way to Neon Edifices 

Spend a whole day in the castle and you'll get a chance to 
experience something truly terrific. As the sun goes down, 
the lights surrounding the castle come on and give you
 a spectacular show.  Lights have been set up to reveal a 
unique (some might say better) side of the castle. 

Lighting Hours:
 18:00-21:00




Light It Up

Personally I was in awe of the cherry blossoms pre-light up 
so when the lights came on, I slowly lost interest. It makes
 it difficult to see the flowers in their natural beautiful glory
 instead of the random colors that light them up. However if 
you enjoy lighting displays this is definitely one to add to your
 list, because let's face it, how likely are you to get a chance to
 see a 600 year-old World Heritage Site all lit up?




Sakura Tales

Hopefully this story has given you a newfound appreciation 
for the symbol of Japan and inspired you to want to go
 out and experience hanami for yourself. It doesn't take very 
much to do so just a couple of friends, a beautiful day, and 
you place to sit and enjoy the sakura. If making the trip all 
the way to Okinawa is a problem too don't worry because 
hanami takes place all over Japan!

What are some places to enjoy Hanami in Tokyo you 
may be wondering?




Tokyo Hanami

Estimated blooming in Tokyo is set for March
 26〜April 7 2016:
*dates may vary*


Tokyo is a huge city and benefits from a number of places
 to visit to see hanami. Here's a list of the top 3 places 
to visit this year!





Tokyo's Top 3


1.) Shinjuku Gyoen
200 yen entry fee: 9am - 4:30pm
A massive park in the middle of Shinjuku 10 minutes
 from the station offering over a thousand cherry 
trees and about a dozen different species. 


2.) Ueno Park
Free admission
Illumination: 3/21 to 4/12 5pm to 8pm
Ueno is perhaps one of the fastest blooming sites in 
Tokyo, but the tradeoff is it's extremely busy. The majority
 of the over 1000 trees line a main walkway in the park 
making it prone to getting crowded quickly.

3.) Chidori-ga-fuchi
Free admission
Illumination: 3/27〜4/5
The moats surrounding the former Edo Castle are decorated
 with hundreds of beautiful trees giving you a picturesque 
mix of Tokyo's modern architecture set amidst remnants 
of it's ancient civilization.



Snap your best Shot!

Think you have what it takes to capture a moment? Send your best cherry blossom shots to our Facebook page and show us which place you find best to photograph cherry blossoms!^^