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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"A Dawn of a New Day..."

A Peace Pole at Hedo Misaki

Peace Poles - Hedo
     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

     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 visit

For more information about Children's Day visit

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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tanbo Matsuri - Rice Paddy/Mud Festival, Kin Town

Families at the Rice Paddy Festival

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Kin Town Rice Field Festival

     N 26 27.391E 127 56.487

Rice Paddy Festival, Kin Town (たんぼ 祭り, 金武町)

Update/Be Advised: This year (2017) there will be additional parking with shuttle bus services. The auxiliary parking is located on Highway 104 at the Fire Training lot (about 2 minute drive from Highway 329/104 intersection). Highway 104 intersects with Highway 329 just before the Kin Dam on the southside. It is plotted on the map. It is not certain how far they are going to block off parking near the main event location.

Event: Rice Paddy Festival/Tanbo Matsuri (sometimes referred to as the Kin Town Mud Festival)
When: Wednesday, 2017 May 3
Time: 1000-1700
Entrance Fee: Free, (Playing in the rice paddy is free). There are other kids activities that may cost from 300 ¥ to 1500 ¥ (kayaking, banana boat ride etc.)
Restrooms: On location.
Flyer Information. Visit Kin Town Facebook Post.

1. Swimming attire is recommended when playing in the mud.
2. Families often bring pool accessories, such as floatation devices and swim googles.
3. Bring an extra change of clothes. Bring a large bag to carry dirty/muddy clothes.
4. Consider bringing extra towels or blankets for your car seats. (Normally, there is a line for one giant wash station. It will not, however, clean off all the mud).
5. Try to make all restroom stops before attending the festival.
6. Consider bringing items for shade (hat, umbrella etc.)

Parking. There is designating parking. However, this can get full rather quick. In the event that it is full. Please observe where others are parking and avoid parking in areas that would cause congestion. This may require a little walking.

Directions. The event is located at the Nature Mirai-kan Recreational Facility in  Kin Town. Please view the map for the most direct route. If traveling north on Highway 329, take the first immediate left just before the Kin Bridge (designated by a pink thumbtack). You will travel down a hill and see the Kin Dam shortly after (it will be on your left). Near the bottom of the hill you will see an improved road that takes you east under the Kin Bridge and then towards the ocean. The Okukubi River will be on your right. The Nature Mirai-kan facility is near the mouth of the river. The rice paddy field will be about 100 meters away from the main facility.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Yuri Matsuri - The Lily Festival, Ie Island"

Easter Lilies sitting in formation

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Yuri Matsuri ( ゆり まつり)

     N 26 44.309E 127 48.541

Yuri Matsuri (ゆり まつり), Ie Island

From late April to the first week of May, Ie Island (Ie Jima – sometimes written as Ie Shima) host the Yuri Matsuri (ゆり まつり), also known as the Lily Festival. Here you will see arrays and arrays of white trumpets along an entire field in a small section of Ie Jima's northeastern corner. The area couldn't be any more perfect with the open ocean in the immediate background accompanied by the nice ocean breeze. It is one of the more scenic flower festivals you will find here on Okinawa Prefecture. These flowers (Lilium longiflorum) are better known by their common name, the 'Easter Lily', which are actually native to the Ryukyu Islands. If you are looking for a small off-island adventure to another small island then this will be the perfect trip. Ie Jima has many beautiful areas that can be seen during a one-day-stay such as Wajee Viewpoint, Mt. Gusuku, and the Niyathiya Cave.

Festival Information.
Time Period. Late April to 1st Week of May (2017, April 22 to May 7)
Admission Fee. Free
Phone Number (Festival Infomation). 098 049 2906
Official Festival Blog
Download Flyer (Japanese).
Parking. Available at the Lily Field
Shuttle Transportation (Festival Period only). Shuttle transportation is available from Ie Port to the Lily Field. Shuttle fee (may vary over time). As of 2013, 12 years to Adults, 250 Yen / Children between 5 and 12, 100 Yen. Kids 5 and under are free. Each price is one way.
Bike Rentals. Generally, 1000 Yen rental fee for the entire day. The bike rental facility is at the port. It is an estimated 25-30 minute bike ride to the Lily field from Ie Port.
Bringing Your Own Bicycle. You can bring your own bicyle on the ferry. A surcharge will be added. See website below under Motobu Port/Ferry Transportation Information for pricing.

Motobu Port/Ferry Transportation Information.  In order to get to Ie Island you can depart from either Naha or Motobu Port. The following information is for Motobu only.
Motobu Port Directions. To get to Motobu Port take Highway 58 going north towards Nago City and then turn onto Highway 449 going towards the Motobu Peninsula. The port will be just before the Sesoko Bridge. Scroll downward on the map above. There will be a balloon icon designating Motobu Port. GPS coordinates for Motobu Port are N26 38.442, E127 52.803
Motobu Port Phone Number. 098 047 3940 (although not fluent in English, staff members are accustom to English speaking travelers)
Ferry Schedule. See website below.
Individual Ticket/Vehicle Prices. See website below.
Vehicle Reservations. Reservations in advance are required in order to bring your vehicle to and back from Ie Island. Make reservations at the phone number above. See website below for fee prices. You will have to provide your name, make of vehicle and vehicle length in meters to the Motobu Port Office.
Vehicle check-in. When you check in at the ticket office in person, they will give you a ticket stub and instruct you which lane you have to line up your car (the lane numbers will be visible. They are near the ferry loading ramp). Please check in at the ticket office about 30 to 40 minutes before the ferry departs.
Vehicle Loading. Only the driver is required to be in the vehicle during loading. All other passengers can walk on the ferry. When ready, a port personnel with a whistle will direct vehicles one by one. Once he directs you, you will have to position your vehicle so as to back it in. Once you have your car in position he will take your ticket stub. Port personnel will direct you all the way in. You are not required to stay in the vehicle during the ferry ride. Just ensure your car is turned off, doors locked, and parking breaks engaged. Just ensure you return back to your car 10 minutes before the ferry arrives at Ie Port. The process is the same on your return trip. Do not lose the other half of your round trip ticket stub. You will need it in order to return to the main island. Caution. Once the ferry ramp drops down there is tremendous amount of loading and off-loading activity at an amazing speed. Please watch your children at all times in this area.


Directions to the Lily Field from Ie Port. You will have to navigate to Highway 225 which is relatively close to Ie Port. Once you are on Highway 225, travel initially in an easterly direction (going in a counter-clockwise direction). You will see tourism signs directing you the way, as well as festival banners that guide you in.

Travel Tips. 1) Golden Week. The last week of the festival coincides with Golden Week, A Major Tourism Period for Japanese Citizens. It will be crowded. Consider making vehicle reservations as early as possible. 2) ATM. Bring plenty of Yen to cover your entire stay. The Japanese Post Office on Ie Jima does have an ATM that accepts the Plus© System. You can withdraw Yen there (additional service fees will be applied). 

Easter Lily Information