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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cherry Blossoms on Yaedake (Mt. Yae)

Cherry Blossoms during peek season on Mt. Yae


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Cherry Blossoms on Yaedake

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 39.414E 127 54.696

        *GPS to Mt. Yae Entrance



Cherry Blossoms on Yaedake (Sakura Matsuri, 桜祭り)

Cherry Trees in Okinawa Prefecture are said to bloom before anywhere else in Japan. Mid-January marks Cherry Blossom season and every year, thousands of visitors travel to Yaedake and Nakijin Castle, to see the first blooms. It is claimed that over 7000 Cherry Trees occupy the hillside of Mt. Yae.(1) The Cherry Trees found here (Prunus campanulata maxim)(1)  are different than those found in Mainland Japan. They are said to come from Taiwan and southern regions of China.(1) Every year, the Motobu Town Office sets up a Cherry Blossom Festival or Sakura Matsuri (桜祭り) towards the latter part of January for about two weeks. Below is basic information for the Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival.

Festival Information.
When: Normally the last two weeks of January and early February. (2018 January 20 to February 4)
Time: There are no opening or closing hours to enter. However, the best time to view the flowers is during the day.
Peak Viewing Time. Typically, last week of January.
Admission Fee: Free
Amenities: Food Stands/Restrooms Available (various locations)
Parking: Available (various locations). Parking attendants should be available to direct traffic.
Websites: Motobu Town Website  (Japanese only). To go directly to information site visit here. Translator may be required.

Recommendation (Please Read). Expect heavy traffic up the hill on Mt. Yae during the festival period. If you wish to see Cherry Blossoms without the traffic, it is recommended that you see them the week prior (though they may not be in full bloom). There are different access routes to Mt. Yae as you can see on the map above. However, the blue route has Cherry Trees along both sides till you get close to the top (Note. You cannot reach all the way up Yaedake. There is a communications tower that is off limits to non-official personnel). The Nakijin Castle Cherry Blossom Festival will be held January 27th to February 12th. Consider going to both during the overlapping dates. The Nakijin Castle Night Illumination during the festival period has the edge over any Cherry Blossom Festival after hours. Please see article, Nakijin Castle Night Illumination (Cherry Blossom Festival).

References.
1. Okinawa Story (Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau (OCVB))
2. Motobu Town Office.

What to Bring. Camera, warm clothing, Cash (Yen)

Related Articles. Nakijin Castle Night Illumination (Cherry Blossom Festival)

Directions. Take Highway 58 into Nago City, then Highway 449 to Motobu Town. You will then want to take Highway 84 heading east. You will see a sign marking the Mt. Yae Entrance (Pink Thumbtack in the map above).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nakijin Castle Night Illumination (Cherry Blossom Festival)

Nakijin Castle Night Display (Picture taken in 2012)


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Nakijin Castle Night Display (Cherry Blossom Season)

    GPS
    LatitudeLongitude
    N 26 41.552E 127 55.677




Nakijin Castle Night Illumination, Cherry Blossom Festival 

Nakijin Castle has one unique feature that separates itself from other UNESCO Castles here on Okinawa. For about two weeks during the cherry blossom season, the evening hours are extended to the public and Nakijin Castle 'lights' up in an array of evening glory,...and if the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, you will see these pretty flowers like never before. During this special nighttime occasion, Nakijin Castle becomes one of the most romantic places here on Okinawa.

Basic Information.
When: Normally the last two weeks of January and early February. (2018 January 27 to February 12)
Time: Special hours during cherry blossom season 8am to 9pm (last admission is 830pm)
Admission Fee (to enter the castle): As of 2018, 300 yen for children, and 400 yen for adults. (Check website for current information.
Website (Festival Information): http://www.nakijin.jp  (Japanese only). Translator may be required.
To go directly to the event informationclick here.

Special Events. Normally there is an opening ceremony to kick off the night display with special events spread out during the next two weeks (normally happening on weekends). You can navigate through the Nakijin Village website (above) if you wish to see current schedule of events.

What to bring. During this season, it can become very cold and windy. Please dress appropriately. Definitely bring a camera.

Camera Recommendations. The night display offers great opportunities for photography, but you do have to have a basic understanding of your camera to take full advantage of your 'Kodak' moment. If you are new to photography, it is highly encouraged that you study the shutter speed and ISO settings on your camera first. Understanding these fundamentals will make a world of difference on your nighttime photography. Bringing a tripod is also highly recommended for this type of night time occasion. 

Amenities/Facilities/Parking. Food stands, toilets, indoor shelter facilities, and parking spaces are available on site. Wheel chairs; Unfortunately because of its historical nature, the castle compound is not wheel chair accessible. Baby Strollers; There are many uneven surfaces and stairs inside the castle compound. Bring baby strollers at your own discretion. 

Directions. The most simple route is to take Highway 58 north and turn on Highway 449 going into Motobu. Then take Highway 505 to Highway 115.  You will be approaching Nakijin Castle from the north.You will also see plenty of signs directing you to the castle location. An alternate route and more direct is to take Highway 58 north and then Highway 449. From there take Highway 84 east. Shortly after take Highway 115 going north. You will be arriving to Nakijin Castle from the south. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nago City's Cherry Blossom Festival

Lanterns at the Cherry Blossom Festival


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Nago Cherry Blossom Festival

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 35.245E 127 58.925





Nago City's Cherry Blossom Festival (Sakura Matsuri, 名護市 桜祭り)

Late January to early February, Nago City hosts the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Nangusuku Castle Site Park across from the Orion Brewery. Thousands of visitors come and take delight in the cherry blossoms as they ascend up the hillside park; and up above you can gaze upon the vast surrounding landscape of Nago City with the East China Sea and the Motobu Peninsula in the backdrop. The festival is a two-day weekend event. See festival information below.

Festival Information.
When: Two-day weekend event, typically end of January/early February. (2018 January 27 to January 28)
Time: 11am - 9pm, Saturday & Sunday
Night Viewing: Typically, the week before the festival starts the stairway lanterns will be turned on in the evening till the last day of the festival (6pm - 10pm)
Admission Fee: Free
Amenities: Food Stands (Yen only)/Restrooms Available (various locations)
Baby Strollers/Wheelchairs: The park has a network of paved roads to help you navigate through the park. However, there will be areas with steps and makeshift stairs. Plan accordingly.
Parking: The main parking area will be at the Nago Fishing Port (near Highway 58). It is about a 10 minute walk to the main festival area. Scroll map to the west to see fishing port.
Website: kanko.city.nago.okinawa.jp (Japanese only). Translation may be required. To go directly to the information click here.

Note: If you have never been to the Nangusuku Castle Site Park, prepare for a lot of walking up the the hillside. Road networks (closed to vehicle traffic during the festival period) traverse up the mountain aiding you to view the entire park on foot; The long stairway to the hillside shrine is little over a 450 steps. The stairway is optional; a road can also take you near the small shrine as well.

Directions. (Recommendations) Because this event falls on the weekend, heavy traffic is expected at the merger of Exit 10 (Expressway) and Highway 58. Additionally, it will not be uncommon to see traffic backed up on the Expressway from Exit 10. Option 1. (If using the Expressway), Recommend departing off Exit 9 (Ginoza Village) and then take Highway 329 north into Nago City. Then proceed north on Highway 58. The Nago Fishing Port (event parking area) will be on your left side (west of Highway 58). Option 2. Take Highway 329 north into Nago City. Then proceed north on Highway 58. The Nago Fishing Port (event parking area) will be on your left side (west of Highway 58).

Other Cherry Blossom Festivals on Okinawa. Mt. Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival, Nakijin Castle Night Illumination (Cherry Blossoms).

Related Links. The Nangusuku Castle Site Park

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"A Dawn of a New Day..."

A Peace Pole at Hedo Misaki

Peace Poles - Hedo
     
     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 52.337E 128 15.817
     *GPS is of the Parking Lot




June 23rd - Irei no hi

Between April 1st and June 22nd of 1945, up to 200,000 lives would perish in what would be dubbed the 'Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific'. Of that number, the Okinawans would pay the heaviest price – men, women, children, estimated to be over a hundred thousand...gone.

And up north on the main island, you will find Hedo Misaki. It is as far as one can get from the once war-torn regions of the south, where much of the carnage had taken place. And there, you will find two Peace Poles firmly wedged into the rugged coral cliffs of Cape Hedo. They are beacons of hope, with each side having a message inscribed in a different language. The message reads, “May Peace Prevail on Earth”. Both objects serve as a simple reminder of peace and of the tragedies of war. On June 23rd, the anniversary of the day after the war ended, many Okinawans will pay tribute to the fallen who passed away during those very dark times. It is their way of spreading this message of peace. It is their way of healing. It is 'Irei no hi', Okinawa's Memorial Day.

And for this special occasion, the picture above taken at Hedo Misaki is symbolic in many ways. Hardly scathed by war, Hedo remains almost as pristine as it did in 1945. Its innocence remains intact. And based on its orientation, Hedo is one of the first places on Okinawa to receive the warmth of the sun's rays, marking the beginning of a brand new day for the Ryukyu Island. And as you glare towards the horizon you are no longer facing the horrible images of the past. And on any given night, as you stare deep into infinity, all that lies between you and the horizon is an abyss of endless darkness, where no hope could possibly shine through. But at that magical moment,  a glimmer of life emerges from the clouds, a dawn of a new day..... and a shiny beacon of hope is lit.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"Haneji Dam Koinobori Festival, Nago City"

Koinobori (Carp Streamers) at the Haneji Dam


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Haneji Dam Koinobori Festival

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 36.527E 128 01.195





Haneji Dam Koinobori Festival, Nago City

Every year at the Haneji Dam, Nago City host the Koinobori Matsuri (loosely translated as the Festival of the Carp Streamers) in celebration of Japan's National Holiday called 'Kodomo no hi', Children's Day (May 5th). Various activities are spread throughout the two days for family and children to enjoy together. The carps streamers at the Haneji Dam (seen above) were hoisted during Golden Week (about a week prior to the festival) and adds a wonderful touch to the scenery. If you have never been to Haneji Dam then it is worth checking out. It is one of the more scenic dams here on Okinawa. Mark the calendar! It's Nago City's Koinobori Matsuri at the Haneji Dam.

Festival Information.
Festival Name. Haneji Dam Koinobori Matsuri (羽地 ダム 鯉のぼり 祭り)
Time Period. Normally, last weekend of Golden Week (2017, May 6-7, Sat, Sun, 9:00am-17:30pm) – Children's Day May 5th.
Website. Nago Events Facebook Page .
Parking. Available on location. Shuttle services also available from a satellite parking area in Nago City. See website above for map of satellite parking location.
Recommendations. It is recommended you bring your own shade or sun protection. Bring extra clothing/towel in case you or your children plan on getting wet.

For photos of Haneji Dam during the off season visithttp://www.mapitokinawa.com/2011/08/haneji-dam-family-picnic-area.html

For more information about Children's Day visithttp://japanese.about.com/od/japanesecultur1/a/Childrens-Day-In-Japan-And-Koinobori-Song.htm

Directions. Because the festival occurs during the peak of Golden Week and it also falls on a weekend, using Highway 58 through Nago City during this time may not be your best option if you wish to avoid traffic. Chances are it will be highly congested. Furthermore, if you use the Expressway, getting off on Exit 10 in Kyodo will probably not be any better as well. Chances are this too will be highly congested as you merge onto Highway 58. The following directions is believed to be the quickest and the most scenic way to access the Haneji Dam: Take the Expressway, exit off Exit 9 in Ginoza Village and then take Highway 329 north into Nago City. Once you past the Marine Base, Camp Schwab, you will take Highway 331 as if you are traveling on the east side of the island. About 3-4 km later you will see signs for Highway 18 (annotated by the green line in the map above). This route will take you to the other side of Nago City. Follow this Highway till you see road signs for Haneji Dam. The turn-off to Haniji Dam is marked by the yellow line in the map above. It will be be very noticeable on were the park area of the dam is located. Note: If you continue straight on the green route, you will run into the Orion Brewery.