Sgtravellers

Header

Main Content

Content Text

October 30, 2018, Okinawa, Japan

Pretty in pink

Dewi Sriwahyuto checks out the top three places to enjoy the sakura season in Okinawa

Dewi Sriwahyuto

As the end of the year beckons, you might already be thinking about where to go for your vacation next year.

If you are planning a trip for the first few months of the year, Okinawa might just be the place for you. Its cool weather, pristine beaches with the bluest of waters, delicious, authentic Japanese food, and gorgeous sakura make it a great destination to kick-start your year.

Due to its sub-tropical climate, Okinawa’s sakura typically bloom from late-January to mid-February — slightly earlier than the rest of the country. So, you will be among the first few to experience this special moment if you are in the right place at the right time.

While they are many spots in Okinawa where you can experience hanami, or the traditional Japanese custom of flower-viewing, here are three must-visit sites if you are pressed for time.

Sakura atop Mount Yaedake

Imagine driving up a winding road with endless views of bright, pink hues. That is what you will be treated to at next year’s 41st Sakura Festival during late January or early February when about 7,000 Ryukyu kanhizakura, commonly known as Taiwan cherry trees, line the road in full bloom at Mount Yaedake, also known as Yae-Take.

Located in Motobu, north of Okinawa Island, it is especially popular during the cherry blossom season and the first day of the New Year as people gather to watch the sunrise.

During the Sakura Festival, locals and tourists drive about 4km up Mount Yaedake to marvel at the beauty of the sakura, feast on snacks from the food stalls set up at the summit, and partake in activities such as the Okinawan Folk Song Contest and Miss Sakura Beauty Pageant.

Other forms of entertainment, including a tug-of-war competition and a traditional taiko drumming performance, are available for adults and children. It can get chilly because you are at the peak of a mountain, so be sure to bring extra scarves to keep yourself warm.

Where: Ookayou Motobu-cho Kunigami-gun Okinawa Prefecture

Info: www.town.motobu.okinawa.jp

Picnicking under sakura at Yogi Park

Yogi Park is located in the heart of Naha City, a 15-minute walk from the bustling Kokusai street. The park is to Naha City what the Botanic Gardens or Hyde Park are to Singapore and London respectively.

It makes a lovely spot for an afternoon picnic as it has plenty of stone benches and space, so bring along some snacks and hot tea as you picnic under the blooming sakura.

The Naha Cherry Blossom Festival is usually held every February and March, when about 400 cherry blossom trees bloom along the river and walkway.

The ambience is enhanced by performances such as minyo folk singing and hula dancing, as well as a plethora of food stalls selling dishes such as the signature Okinawa soba noodles.

Where: 1-1 Yorimiya Naha City Okinawa Prefecture

Info: www.goyah.net

Enchanting sakura night at Nakijin Castle

Nakijin Castle, a Unesco World Heritage Site that dates back about 800 years, is a must-visit when you are in Okinawa.

Apart from learning about the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled Okinawa during ancient times, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean when you reach the top of the ruins. The waters turn from the lightest turquoise to the deepest azure.

Usually held from late January to early February, the Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival at the Nakijin Castle ruins is an equally amazing experience.

You will be mesmerised by the sight of thousands of illuminated Gusuku Hanazakari trees, a type of sakura, which are lit by candles so visitors can navigate the walkways and steps easily.

To be able to experience the stunning sight of sakura on such historical grounds is a special adventure to be had once in your lifetime.

Where: 5101 Imadomari Nakijinson Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture 

Info: nakijinjo.jp

The writer’s trip was organised by Dynasty Travel.

GETTING THERE

- I flew directly from Singapore to Okinawa on Jetstar, which offers three flights a week to the Japanese prefecture.

TRAVELLER’S TIPS

- Keep warm. Temperatures usually rise to 27 deg C and dip to about 15 deg C in winter. But when I was in Naha, the temperature fell to 10 deg C — the lowest Okinawa has ever experienced.

- Hanami etiquette: Hanami means “admire the cherry blossoms”, so refrain from touching the cherry trees, shaking or breaking branches, walking on the roots, picking the flowers or causing any harm to the trunks. Any damage to the fragile cherry trees stunts the growth of the flowers and could lead to a higher risk of disease, and potential death.

Side Bar

Most Read This Month
Part 21: Charmed by quaint Nanzhuang

In this 21st instalment of a 26-part series, my paper explores a quaint mountain town

曾兄弟旅行社:与星同行旅游配套

圣托里尼(Santorini)是希腊东南200公里爱琴海上火山群岛中的最大岛,别名锡拉岛。这里是新石器时代晚期(距今约4000多年)阿克罗蒂里的米诺斯文明发源地,南部的考古遗址留有壁画和陶器,揭开辉煌的古文明历史。此外,她因位于群岛的最南端而拥有无敌海景,是观赏绝美日落的最佳地点;蔚蓝海洋、金色沙滩、白色房屋与蓝顶十字教堂,构成典型的爱琴海风情,是被公认为最浪漫的度假小岛。

Lots of things to do in Gyeonggi-do

Explore charming villages, a valley with a 1,100-year-old gingko tree and get pampered in a K-pop beauty town

Latest travel story
Qingdao - city of lights

David Bowden experiences a heady mix of history, architecture and beer in Qingdao

A treasure trove of memories

A cruise down the Danube River gives Arul John lessons in history, art and architecture

Pretty in pink

Dewi Sriwahyuto checks out the top three places to enjoy the sakura season in Okinawa