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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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. (2017 January 21 to February 5)
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 or the Motobu Tourism Organization (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). Because the Yaedake and Nakijin Castle Cherry Blossom Festival coincide, you may want to see both in one trip. 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).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Plum Blossoms of Oshittai, Nago City

The Plum Blossoms of Oshittai


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Plum Blossoms, Oshittai Nago City

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 35.539E 128 05.822





The Plum Blossoms of Oshittai, Nago City


Rare here on Okinawa are the Plum Blossom Flowers. Much like their cousin flowers from the Cherry Tree, these delicate white flowers bloom during Okinawa's winter season, normally in mid-January. Typically, however, they bloom a week preceding the Cherry Blossom season. Once in full bloom they last for about a week.

Blooming Season: Mid January
Blooming Period: 5 Days to 1 week

Directions/Parking. Take Highway 331 north into Nago City (Nago City's east seaside) into the town of Teniya. Study the map carefully. Look for these signs (click here) on the left side of Highway 331. They will be at a Y-intersection. Turn left here. Follow the road for about 4km till you arrive at a T-intersection with these signs on the corner. It is here that you arrive at the village of Oshittai. Recommendation. It is highly recommended that you park near this T-intersection. The roads are narrow and during blooming season, there will be a line of cars driving through along with many pedestrians. The rows of Plum trees start about 50 meters from the T-intersection.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Okinawa Burger Festival, Ginoza Village



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Okinawa Burger Festival, Ginoza Village

      GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 28.953E 127 58.321




Okinawa Burger Festa, Ginoza Village

Vote for the Best Burger in Okinawa! Burger joints from all around the island will be vying for the title for the "Best Burger in Okinawa". The event will be held at the Ginoza Nou-son Park (near the Ginoza baseball field and sports dome). Event Information is below.

Event Information.
Date: December 11, 2016 (Sunday).
Time: 10am - 4pm.
Location: Ginoza Nou-son Park (Near the Ginoza Sports Dome & Baseball Field).
Admission Fee: Free.
Participating Burger Shops: See Ginoza Village Office Tourism Website for participating stores (12 total).
Purchasing a Burger: Burgers can only be purchased with a voucher. Vouchers are sold in booklets of 10 for a total cost of 1000 yen for each booklet(10 x 100 Yen). There should be a ticket booth at the festival where you can purchase these vouchers. (Yen Only). Number of vouchers may vary when purchasing certain burgers.
Voting: After you receive a burger you will receive a voting 'marble'. Take the marble and throw it in one of the 12 burger shop voting boxes at the polling booth. The marbles will be counted at the end of the day. The burger shop with the most 'marbles' will win the Burger Festa Contest! The winner will be announced at 4:30pm.
Official Website: Ginoza Village Office Tourism Website.
Amenities: Toilet facilities available.
Parking Available: See Official Website for parking location. Parking has been mapped out on their website.

Inclement Weather: The event will continue if light rain occurs. If severe rain is expected, the event may be subject to cancellation. Please plan accordingly.

Notes/Recommendations.
1. Expect long lines at each burger station (12 stations anticipated). Consider bringing small snacks/drinks to get you through the wait.
2. Make sure you get your ticket vouchers before you stand in line. Burger Booths will not accept Yen.


Directions. The Ginoza Nou-son Park is located near Highway 329 in Ginoza Village. It is also near Entrance/Exit 9 of the Okinawa Expressway and the Ginoza Sports Dome. Visit the Ginoza Office Website for directions and parking.


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.