Whew! What a year 2018 was! After all the holiday festivities and the ringing in of a New Year, it’s time to relax and enjoy a different type of festivity here on Okinawa; Hanami.
What is Hanami?
A long standing Japanese tradition of saying farewell to winter and hello to Spring involves a festival called Hanami (meaning flower viewing), where people gather to marvel at the beauty of the sakura (cherry blossom) flower.
Types of tree.
There are actually several types of cherry blossom species, and they range from an almost white colour to a vibrant pink. The most common is the Taiwan cherry tree, which produces a blossom with a deep pink hue, and is likely the species you’ll see the most photographed!
Hanami on Okinawa.
Okinawa’s sub-tropical climate means it’s the first prefecture in Japan to enjoy the appearance of the cherry blossoms, which erupt into bloom through Spring for several weeks, before shedding colour for the rest of the year. On Okinawa, they typically start to appear around the end of January, hitting their peak around mid February.
Best festivals for Hanami.
There are quite a few on Okinawa, with the North of the island typically first to experience it’s first pink blush. Here’s our top pick of festivals:
- Nago sakura festival.
Centred around Nago Castle Park, this is the first festival of cherry blossom season, usually occurring around the last weekend of January. You can enjoy great food, parades, and lots of pretty cherry blossoms. The best (and most tiring!) is the walk up the steps of Nago castle ruins; it’s lined on both sides with trees, and the top gives you a great outlook. (Location: HERE)
- Motobu sakura festival.
One of the best is held at Yaedake Sakura no Mori park. Take a leisurely drive up Mount Yaedake, and marvel at the sea of pink as you climb. The park too is swathed in cerise, and has music, entertainment, and food to help you celebrate. (Location: HERE).
- Nakijin-jo sakura festival.
Nakijin castle makes for a spectacular hanami site; the steps leading into the old ruins are flanked with cherry blossom trees. For this festival, there is an entrance fee for the castle, which must be paid prior to entry. The best view is the top of the steps; you get to see all of the cherry blossom trees, as well as Nakijin itself and beyond. It’s a wonderful photo opportunity. (Location: HERE).