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
9th Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival –
World Heritage Nakijin Castle Ruins and Cherry Light Up
*Light Up (Entrance Fee) Jan. 23rd, 2016 – Feb. 7th, 2016 18:00-21:00
54th Annual Nago Cherry Blossom Festival
Uruma City Nuri River Cherry Blossom Festival
Naha Chura Cherry Blossom Festival
10th Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival
*Light Up Period Jan. 22nd – Feb. 7th
*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.
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.
5101, Imadomari, Nakjin Village, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, 905-0428
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!
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.^^
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.
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?
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?
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
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.
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!^^