Thursday, November 29, 2012
Photo Essay: See Cherry Blossoms (桜) in Winter
Japan's Blossoms Open First on Okinawa
The cherry trees on the island of Okinawa begin blooming in January each year.
The pink blossoms brighten up the hillsides through the month of February.
The flowers hang like bells from the branches, unlike those of northern regions in Japan, which
open facing the sky. Okinawa'a cherry trees come from Taiwan.
Scientists may agree, or not, local legend says, the coldest day of winter activates the flower buds.
Having witnessed decades of Sakura (桜), or Cherry Blossom Seasons, I believe legendary reasoning.
Though it is winter, once the hills come alive with the flowers, the weather gets warmer.
Cherry Blossom Festivals Begin
Flower lovers, from around the globe, and especially Japan, stay tuned to the Sakura Forecast.
Planning travel can be tricky.
Mother Nature orchestrates the viewing of such delicate things as flowers.
The first Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) usually occurs on Mt.Yaedake in northern
Okinawa. Normally, it is held around mid-January and lasts for two weeks.
The next festival is held on Nago Mountain, over the course of a weekend, late January.
Both events are popular with families and, there are no entrance fees.
Food, beverage and game booths, as well as, live entertainment are available.
Sturdy walking shoes, jackets, cameras and an umbrella are recommended.
Visitors come by the thousands.
These, first two, festivals are on mountains and can give the legs a good workout.
It is best to go at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery.
The routes are lighted, with paper lanterns.
Often, it is worth the wait, to stay until after the crowds thin out, at night.
You can catch some dramatic photos and avoid sitting in traffic jams when leaving.
UNESCO Nakijin-jo (gusuku) Castle
Late January, through early February, the Nakijin-gusuku Sakura Matsuri takes place.
In recent years, the castle has been lighted, at night, during Cherry Blossom Season.
A sight to see during daylight, it turns into a magical dreamland when the lights shine on the
blossoms, trees, and stone walls of the fortress during darkness.
It is imperative, to check the links provided for dates and closing times, as they may vary from
year to year.
The terrain at Nakijin would be less foot and stroller-friendly than previously mentioned festivals.
A flashlight might be handy for those wandering off the stone stairs, or pathways, to take photos.
More Sakura Matsuri
Moving farther south on Okinawa, there are more festivals as the season progresses.
The Town of Yaese, Naha City, and Kumejima Island, all have Cherry Blossom Festivals.
Can't Get Away During Winter?
The Japan Meteorological Agency has something for you.
They post cherry blossom opening dates and, in full bloom dates, for all of Japan.
Sakura Season (Cherry Blossom Season) lasts from March through May,
as the blossoms spread from the southern tip of mainland Japan, to the northernmost regions.
Don't miss out on one of the beauties of Japan: The Sakura Matsuri.
See more photos from Cherry Blossom Season in Festivals