Friday, February 5, 2010

What I've been waiting for: Sakura Matsuri!

Sakura Matsuri is Japanese for Cherry Blossom Festival, and I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for it! Around this time last year, Matt and I found out that we would be moving, and the only thing I knew about Japan was Cherry Blossoms! Back then, I remember having visions of Okinawa, covered in beautiful, pink Cherry Blossom trees all year round. After doing some research on our new home, however, I learned that these special trees are not full of pink flowers all year round. They are not even blooming in the spring or summer. In fact, the Cherry Blossom season is very short-lived here in Japan and only occurs during the end of winter. Each part of Japan is slightly different when it comes to their blooming season, but here on Okinawa, we get to see these gorgeous trees come to life from about mid-January to the end of February. In fact, Okinawa is unique in that it has the earliest blooming Cherry Blossom trees in ALL of Japan! We also have some of the pinkest blossoms in all of Japan - the farther north you travel, the lighter in color they get. In mainland Japan, they are actually white!

So, back to Sakura Matsuri... Okinawa probably holds a bunch of festivals to celebrate the Cherry Blossoms taking over the island, but I'm only aware of the 2 largest and most popular ones. There is one held up north of us in Nago, and there is one held south of us in Naha City. Because the trees bloom from north to south on the island, I decided to go see the earliest of the earliest Cherry Blossoms in all of Japan and went up to the Nago festival the other weekend. I took a drive all the way up the expressway, and then I made my way toward Mt. Yaedake where the majority of the trees were.

My drive on the Okinawa Expressway

This toll booth lady posed for a picture - even her booth was decorated for the festival!

Wild Boar Crossing

The trip was not a short one, but, once I got to the base of the mountain, I began seeing more and more pink trees. On the drive up, I was creeping along, bumper-to-bumper, up a narrow and winding road that was lined with Cherry Blossom trees who's pink blossoms stood out against the greenery of the mountain itself. There were a lot of people walking up and down the road as well, taking photos of all the trees. It was hard not to hit them! Just kidding, but the road really was too narrow for them to be walking along with the cars! After getting half-way up Mt. Yaedake, there was a large street, which seemed to be out-of-nowhere, and it had a HUGE line of festival tents and vendors - some had carnival type games for kids, while others were selling unusual Japanese food and desserts. I ended up parking near the heart of the festival and walking up and down the street checking out the tents and getting some noodles to eat (one of the only things I recognized). I saw a handful of Americans, but the majority of the people were locals.

The drive up Mt. Yaedake - lined with Cherry Blossom trees and strung lanterns

Driving down toward the heart of the festival, you can see the enormous line of tents

There was even a huge bridge that they had decorated for the season

After finishing my noodles, I started to walk up the second half of the mountain (now I was one of those people walking the narrow road!) and taking photos of the gorgeous blossoms. There were so many of them, but each so beautiful and deep pink - some were almost magenta!

While the largest concentrations of these trees are in areas that the festivals takes place (Nago, Naha), there are also pink trees popping up all over the rest of the island. Driving down the usual streets to go to the market, the mall or the post office, I notice a new pink tree each day it seems! I'm enjoying it now, because I know in a month, it will all be over!

Thanks everyone for following - we love and miss you all!


  1. Another wonderful Blog! Your photographs are great! From the bee on the blossom to the yummy looking Candy coated bananas! And you even captured the toll attendant! I missed seeing a picture of you, however! (self-portraits are allowed especially with Matt in Thailand!) Love you!

  2. I'm moving to Okinawa sometime next month and found your blog through Okinawa Hai. It has been so helpful and informative- I read a few from when you first got to the island and I'm hoping it will help me avoid some of the culture shock I'll experience soon. Great blog!

  3. Thanks! Are you coming from Pendleton? I saw on your profile that you are in Oceanside - that's where my husband and I came from before Okinawa. I had a little bit of a hard time at first with the culture-shock (worse than my husband) but you start to realize that there are so many "hidden treasures" on this island to explore and experience - its really a cool experience! Good luck with your move! When we were moving here, our sponsor was not helpful AT ALL, so we came here with no idea of what to expect and are still learning a lot of things - If you have any questions about how things work with the military or anything, feel free to email me!