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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Tsutsuji Matsuri - The Azalea Festival"

Admiring the Azaleas 


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Tsutsuji Matsuri (The Azalea Festival)


     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 38.235E 128 09.413




Tsutsuji Matsuri (Azalea Festival), Higashi Village

Every March, Higashi Village hosts the Azalea Festival, or better known to the Okinawans as 'Tsutsuji Matsuri'. The Azaleas are part of the genus Rhododendron, with these particular flowers being part of the subgenus 'Tsutsuji' (or 'Tsutsusi'), which are evergreen Azaleas versus their North American counterparts that are deciduous in nature (leaves fall off in the fall). The festival occurs at the Azalea park about 500 meters away from Highway 70. The festival itself last about 3 weeks long with various events and entertainment spread out during this period. However, you can still view the Azaleas for the entire month of March. Please visit the Higashi Village website for more information (Japanese only). They will have a schedule of major events and entertainment during the festival period.

The park itself is a nice walk on both high and low ground. Down below are small nature walk areas where you can see the Higashi greenery and some of the streams that flow between the hills. High up on the hills are several areas where you can view down and out toward the Higashi landscape. If you love nature and especially flowers, then this is great place to bring the family.

Time Frame: Entire Month of March (2016 Festival Period March 4-21, Flowering Viewing March 1-31)
Time: 9am-6pm
Entrance Fee. 300 Yen for High School Students and above, free for Middle School and below, and free admission for people with a disability
(For update and current information please visit website below)
Website. http://www.vill.higashi.okinawa.jp
Phone number for festival information.  098 043 2265
Food stands. Hot foods starnds are available during the festival period
Stroller Friendly. For the most part, the park is baby stroller friendly

For related articles on the Tsutsuji Matsuri see, http://www.okinawastory.jp/en/special/festivals_hotels/special/f_festivals.html 
http://www.okinawa-information.com/blog/azela-festivaltsutsuji-matsuri 

For information about Azaleas, please visit, 
http://www.pbase.com/azaleasociety/evergreen
http://www.azaleas.org

Directions. Take Highway 329 into Nago City. Then take Highway 331 going north on the eastern side of Okinawa. From Highway 331 take Highway 70. Look for the road signs off of Highway 70 that point to the Azalea Park. During the festival period you may see numerous banner flags along the road side that lead you to the Park. See map for other landmarks of the area.

Other places of interest nearby: The Sakishima Sappanwood Tree (Higashi), The Higashi Museum, Meoto Waterfall.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Cosmos Fields of Kin Town

The Cosmos Fields of Kin (image taken in 2015)

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Cosmos of Kin
     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 27.506E 127 52.792






The Cosmos Fields of Kin Town

Every year around late January to mid-February, farmers of Kin Town plant Cosmos in the rice fields of Igei Village. According to a Kin Town resident, it is believed that Cosmos nurture and rejuvenate the soil just prior to the rice fields being utilized(i). The net result; an entire landscape of  pink, white, and maroon colored flowers lighting up the scene! Hundreds of visitors come every year to get a glimpse of these delightful flowers. Click on the album link above for more images.

Season: Late January to Mid-February just prior to rice planting season.

Directions/Parking. Take Highway 329 into Igei of Kin Town. Igei is about 5 minutes south of Camp Hansen and 10 minutes north of Ishikawa by car. The most noticeable landmark in this area will be an ESSO Gas Station which will be on the east-side of Highway 329. Study the map above. The fields will be on the west-side of Highway 329. Roads will be tight and parking will have to be off to the side where you can find space. Caution. Drive carefully during this time period as buses and school children often take school trips to this venue. 

Note. i. No scientific resources could be found on the Cosmos plants soil rejuvenation capabilities. However, such techniques are sometimes referred to as 'cover crops'. For more information on 'cover crops' please refer to this link at Dave's Garden.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Okinawa International Orchid Show

An Orchid Flower on display at the Okinawa International Orchid Show


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Okinawa International Orchid Show

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 41.244E 127 52.567





The Okinawa International Orchid Show - Expo Park


The beginning of the year marks the flower season here on Okinawa. First there are the Cherry Blossoms, then Sunflowers, and then in February, the annual Okinawa International Orchid Show takes place at Expo Park in Motobu. It is here that orchids from around the world are put on display in an array of beauty to be judged for competition. If you are a flower lover, then this is one event you don't want to miss. According to their website, there are at least 10,000 entries from around the world.

About the Competition. There are two divisions for competition: the 'Certification Division' and the 'Competition Division'. The Certification Division covers new hybrids species not yet certified by other organizations and the Competition Division is broken into five sub-categories which include: Potted, Cut Flower, Flower Display, Flower Design (small-large arrangement), and International Entrants. First, second, and third cash prizes are awarded per respective Division/category and a then an overall Grand Champion is selected.

Please go to photo album above, or click here to see other photos of orchids.

Show Period. February (normally about 9-10 days) (2016 January 30 - February 7).
Information. For exact dates, times, entrance fees etc., please go to their website (in english): http://oki-park.jp

Directions. The Orchid Show is at Expo Park in Motobu Town off of Highway 114. To get close to the Orchid Show look for the landmark sign, Parking Area 8, (see map above) and several signs for the Okinawa International Orchid Show. You can also use the swirly tower as a navigating landmark.

Genus Categories: Some of the genus categories of the orchid family found on display include, but not all: Paphiopedilums, Brassavola, Broughtonia, Cattleya, Epidendrum, Lealia, Encyclia, Phragmipedium, Calanthe, Lycaste, Bulbophyllum, Maxillaria, Zygopetalum, Habenaria, Odontoglossum, Cochlioda, Dendrobium.

Other places of interest nearby: Fukugi Trees of Bise Village, Bise Village Shell Shop.

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. (2016 January 30 to January 31)
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.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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. (2016 January 23 to February 7)
Time: Special hours during cherry blossom season 8am to 9pm (last admission is 830pm)
Admission Fee (to enter the castle): As of 2013, 300 yen for children, and 400 yen for adults. (Check website for current information.
Website: http://www.nakijin.jp or http://rekibun.jp/ (Japanese only). Translator may be required.

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.