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Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku"

Sunflowers standing strong


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Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku Village

     GPS
    LatitudeLongitude
    N 26 17.843E 127 48.622




Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku 

The start of the new year marks the beginning of a whole host of flower festivals here on Okinawa. Traditionally, it begins with Cherry Blossoms. But in late January to early February starts another special flower occasion,...the Himawari Matsuri, or Sunflower Festival, in Kitanakagusuku Village (北中城村のひまわり祭り). This is relatively a recent installment of flower festivals here on the main island first starting in 2008. About 10,000 square meters of farmland are dedicated to these yellow beauties. At full capacity, they can hold up to 400,000 sunflowers. Special events during the festival period will vary from year to year. You will also see booths along the main street selling arts and crafts, vegetables, and other gifts for your enjoyment.

Basic Information.
When: Late February/Early March (varies annually) (2018 – March 3 to March 18)
Time: 1000 - 1600 (this is a non-gated area, you can come and go as you please)
Fee: Admission Free
Website: himawaribatake.net or visit Facebook Page here
Phone Number: 098 935-2233 (Industrial Promotion Division )
YouTube Video: Click this VIDEO to see a past sunflower festival

Amenities/Facilities. Normally, portable toilets are dispersed near the parking lot areas. Be prepared to improvise if need be. Baby Strollers/Wheel Chairs: Around the sunflower fields are paved roads for ease of movement. However, it may be difficult to go inside the flower field itself with any kind of transport. There are areas that are padded down for ease of movement.

Directions/Parking (new location). The new field is in Waniya of Kitanakagusuku Village. Take Highway 329 south into Kitanakagusuku Village. The field is south of the Highway 81/Highway 227/Highway 329 intersection. There will be three (3) landmarks to the west side of Highway 329 to guide you in: Building with "Caleb" written on it, Family Mart, the ESSO Gas Station. At the next traffic light signal south of the ESSO Gas Station turn east (towards the ocean). You will be guided by signs. You will also see a large apartment complex. The sunflower field is walking distance to the west and across from this complex.

Directions/Parking (old location). Take Highway 81 from either Highway 329 (from the east) or Highway 330 (from the west). On the map above you will see a LandMark Pin. This is a JA-SS Gas station on the south side of Highway 81. On the opposite side is a Cocos Convenience Store. If you are coming from Highway 330 you will turn right just before the JA-SS Gas Station. If you are coming from Highway 329, you will turn left just after the JA-SS Gas Station. After you make this turn, you will see flag banners and road guards (during the day hours of the festival period) directing you to parking areas. Parking will be in close proximity of the sunflower fields (normally at the middle school nearby).

Source of information. Okinawa Times (Japanese Only), http://article.okinawatimes.co.jp/article/2013-01-27_44493, Official Website (outdated) http://himawari-in-k.jimdo.com (Japanese Only)

"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 (2018 Festival Period March 2-21, Flowering Viewing March 2-25)
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.

Friday, February 16, 2018

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.
Public Access: Sunday, February 18, 2018

Advisory: The Okinawa City Marathon is on February 18th, 2018. Expect Traffic on Highway 329.

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.

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.