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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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nago City's Cherry Blossom Festival

Lanterns at the Cherry Blossom Festival

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Nago Cherry Blossom Festival

     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. (2017 January 28 to January 29)
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: (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

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)

    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. (2017 January 28 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 2017, 300 yen for children, and 400 yen for adults. (Check website for current information.
Website (Festival Information):  (Japanese only). Translator may be required.
Website (Nakinjin Castle site)

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. 

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

     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).

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).

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku"

Sunflowers standing strong

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Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku Village

    N 26 17.843E 127 48.622

Himawari Matsuri (Sunflower Festival), Kitanakagusuku 

Update, January 30, 2017. It's another challenging year for the Sun Flowers this year. The field is open but have not grown to their usual size (about 1/8th of their normal size)

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 January early February (varies annually) (2017 – January 21 to February 5)
Time: 1000 - 1600 (this is a non-gated area, you can come and go as you please)
Fee: Admission Free
Website: or
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 will be difficult to go inside the flower field itself with any kind of transport.

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),, Official Website (outdated) (Japanese Only)

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
     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

     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.