You may think that Okinawa is warm throughout the year, but it actually gets a little chilly starting in mid-December. This chilliness induces Okinawan cherry blossoms to bloom from January to March. Somei Yoshino, characterized by its pale white color, is the most common cherry blossom species in Japan. But the species you’ll see in Okinawa is called Ryukyu Kanhizakura, which has a vivid pink color, and it’s known for blooming earlier than any other cherry blossoms in Japan. In mainland Japan, the “cherry blossom frontline” makes its way from south to north, but in Okinawa, the frontline goes the opposite direction, from north to south.
Explanations abound for this phenomenon, but the common understanding is that the cold temperature the flower buds need to bloom, which were formed in summer, moves from the northern area of the Okinawa main island (especially from the mountainous area with high altitude) to the southern area; hence the direction of the “frontline.” This article introduces you to amazing cherry blossom sites in Okinawa! Visit these places and get an early peek of spring!
Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival takes place at the end of January. This is the very first cherry blossom festival in Okinawa; many others follow after this. Yaedake is known for having cherry blossoms that bloom first in Japan, and it therefore attracts many people from in and out of Okinawa. Approximately 7,000 Kanhizakura bloom at Yaedake, whose altitude is 453 meters. At the top, you’ll have a spectacular view of the cherry blossoms with Okinawan blue ocean in the back. Enjoy the cherry blossoms as you drive along the mountain road or as you take a leisurely stroll. Visit Yaedake to breathe in the clean mountain air and see the beautiful cherry blossoms.
An Okinawa soba shop stands at the entrance to the Yaedake hiking path. There’s also a bakery, which uses only natural yeast, located en route to the summit, so make a few stops during your cherry blossom hike!
The 41st Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival
[Dates] Saturday, January 19, 2019 to Sunday, February 3, 2019.
[Location] Yaedake Sakura no Mori Park in Motobu-cho
[Entrance fee] None
[Parking] 500 spots
[Others] Donation for Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Preservation [Click here for more information]
Lots of people bustle at the cherry blossom festival that takes place at the Nakijin Castle Ruins, a world heritage site. You’ll be impressed by the fully blooming cherry blossoms that line the rock stairs. The sturdy walls, built to ward off enemies from the castle, are made of grey Paleozoic limestone.
The festival’s highlight is the magical scenery created at night. Candles cast gentle light on the stone pavement, and colorful lights adorn the castle walls; you’ll feel as if you stepped into a beautiful work of art.
If you’re not sure where to go for cherry blossom viewing, head towards the Nakijin Castle Ruins, where you get to enjoy both cherry blossoms and a historical site. If you’re heading there from Naha Airport, Yanbaru Express Bus is a great transportation option.
The 12th Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival
[Dates] Saturday, January 26, 2019 to Monday, February 11, 2019
[Location] Nakijin Castle Ruins (Nakijin village)
[Hours] 8am – 9pm (the ticket counter closes at 8:30pm)
[Entrance fee] ¥400 for an adult, ¥300 for a child from elementary school to high school age, free for pre-elementary school children
Nago Cherry Blossom Festival takes place mainly at Nago Central Park (located in the northern area) on the last weekend of January every year. The park has a path lined with Ryukyu Kanhizakura that extends as long as 2km. This cherry blossom spot, which is the largest in Okinawa, was selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.
During the weekend, many other events are scheduled to take place at Nago Jujiro Main Intersection, Nago Fishing Port, and other venues. Parades at the pedestrian mall and performances on stage will heighten the festive mood.
The festival takes place near Orion Beer Factory, so make a quick stop on your way there!
The 57th Nago Cherry Blossom Festival
[Dates] Saturday, January 26, 2019 to Sunday, January 27th, 2019
[Location] Nago Central Park and the surrounding area (Nago city)
[Time] 1pm – 8:30pm
[Location] Nago Central Park and the surrounding area, the special stage (Sakura Park), Nago Jujiro Main Intersection, Nago Fishing Port
[Parking] 200 spots
The “cherry blossom frontline” swiftly makes its way down south in February, and cherry blossoms start blooming in Okinawa main island’s southern area as well. A lot of well-known cherry blossom spots are in the north, but Yaesedake, which is located inside the Yaese Castle Ruins’ Yaese Park, is also popular! The highlight is the line of cherry blossom trees along the stairs inside the park. The blooming trees will be lit up, and the entire park will be adorned with approximately 150 lanterns and floral monuments to create a magical atmosphere. One can enjoy the contrast between daytime and nighttime cherry blossoms at this festival. Head to the observation deck at the peak to see the night view of Yaese-cho complemented by the pink cherry blossoms; the magnificent view will certainly take your breath away.
Stage performances, local specialties fair (produce and processed goods), and guided tour of Yaese Park take place on February 3.
The 13th Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival
[Dates] Friday, January 25, 2019 to Monday, February 11, 2019
[Location] Yaese Park (Yaese-cho)
※ Stage performances take place at Yaese no Shi-chan Park from 11am – 5pm, Sunday, February 3.
[Time] Light up from 6pm to 9pm (the time varies depending on the blooming condition)
[Parking] 300 spots (extra spots available during the festival)
Yogi Park is Naha’s famous cherry blossom spot, located only a 15-minute walk from Kokusai Dori. The Naha Cherry Blossom Festival takes place at the park around mid-February every year. This park, which is normally a recreational space for locals and their kids, bustles with many cherry blossom viewers during the festival. Approximately 400 Kanhizakura adorn the entire park with their vivid pink color.
The river lined with beautiful cherry blossom trees is definitely a picture-perfect spot! The wide variety of stage performances—from hula to folk music—will entertain the entire family.
Naha Cherry Blossom Festival 2019
[Dates] Wednesday, February 20, 2019 to Sunday, February 24, 2019
[Location] Yogi Park (Naha city)
[Time] 10am – 7pm
This is a cherry blossom festival held annually at Manko Park in February. Many locals visit the park to view the vivid cherry blossoms that adorn the spacious park. The entire family can have a fun, relaxing time seeing local dance performances and grabbing food at the food stands. One can also enjoy the beautiful flowers while jogging through the park’s well-known pathway.
The 14th Naha Chura Cherry Blossom Festival
[Dates] Saturday, February 9, 2019 to Sunday, February 10, 2019
[Location] Manko Park (Naha city)
[Time] Saturday, February 9, 10am – 7pm / Sunday, February 10, 10am – 6pm
Cherry blossom festivals are held throughout Okinawa, so you can stop by one on the way to any tourist destination. Make your winter trip to Okinawa more memorable with cherry blossoms!
Nago City・Yanbaru Area
Naha・Kokusai Street Area