Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan is famous for the earliest cherry blossom viewing. In fact, this is the first prefecture in Japan to see cherry blossom each year. Have you already planned to visit it? Hanami celebration here begins in mid-January and can be enjoyed till mid-February. It is really great to see breathtaking sakura throughout the prefecture; meanwhile it hosts many cherry blossom festivals in various locations. I think a visit to Okinawa in February would be just amazing to experience.

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Mejiro, the Japanese White Eye and Sakura in Mount Yaedake, Okinawa. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In February, on the mainland Japan including the Hokkaido region, people there still feel the violent cold but here it shows you a different picture. One interesting fact about Okinawa’s hanami is that here Somei-Yoshino (a popular variety sakura in Japan) does not dominate its regime, instead Kanhizakura does it. I would surly explain you about this variety sakura later in this post. However, with your camera you can capture endless breathtaking views of beautiful sakura here in the islands of Okinawa. Are you ready to explore everything about Okinawa’s cherry blossom? Come along, I would gladly show you everything.

Best Time to View Cherry Blossom in Okinawa

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Pink cherry blossoms in Okinawa. Photo Credit: sumi104 at Flickr.

You can enjoy impressive sakura vistas from late-January to early-February in Okinawa. That sounds pretty awesome as you don’t have to wait for too long to experience real hanami atmosphere in Japan.

In search of the perfect sakura viewing timing, you have to first take a look at 2018 Japan cherry blossom forecast. Though, my past experiences say that the best time to see sakura in Okinawa is in early-February.

A lot of foreign tourists visit northern Japan (Hokkaido, and Tohoku) in February to spectacle plenty of action of the snow festivals and famous winter attractions. If you are one of them then would you like to head to Okinawa? Snow festivals plus earliest cherry blossom together create spontaneous travel moments that would stay with you forever. In fact, this kind of trip is highly recommended to you if you have not experienced Japanese hanami before. You know what; you don’t have to get back to Japan again in March and April! Please think of this travel guide twice and let me know your honest opinion.

Kanhizakura – The Queen!

Yogi Park in Naha. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Kanhizakura is one of Japan’s most popular cherry blossom varieties. This variety sakura is native to Taiwan and said to be a spring icon of Okinawa prefecture. Why don’t you say it as a queen of Okinawa? It deserves this status!

The blossoms of Kanhizakura look very gorgeous when they are in their full glory. If you visit Mt. Yaedake, you will see many wild Kanhizakura. In fact, cherry blossoms in Yaedake are the first to bloom not only in Okinawa but also in Japan.

Often Kanhizakura’s pink sakura blossoms remind me of Kawazuzakura. This is another type of earliest sakura, mostly found in a small town called Kawazu. Seriously, their appearances may look like similar to you from far away but if you get close to them, they are not!

Kanhizakura’s petals are not widely open; the shape of a single blossom does look like a bell! This is certainly one of the major characteristics, though you can easily recognize them seeing its dark pink color. Also they usually grow in a subtropical climate like Okinawa has.

Cherry Blossom Festivals in Okinawa

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Crowds during the Nago Sakura Matsuri. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Japan is widely known as a festival paradise. Don’t you know it?! Each season changes its delightful nature throughout the year and they don’t show up empty-handed. Upon arrival of each new season, people dwelling across Japan get prepared to experience some awesome outdoor activities though celebrating matsuri or festivals. Telling you all these, I wanted you to make sure that you have a great opportunity to participate in various cherry blossoms festivals across Okinawa in spring. Below are the most popular cherry blossom festivals you could participate in Okinawa Prefecture.

1) Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival

2) Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival

3) Nago Cherry Blossom Festival

4) Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival

5) Naha Cherry Blossom Festival

Best Places to See Sakura in Okinawa

What are the best places to see cherry blossom in Okinawa? You might have found some already! No idea how you did it? Do me a favor; please take a look at the list of the festival above. In fact, those are the most famous places to see sakura in Okinawa prefecture.

1) Mount Yaedake

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Mt. Yaedake in spring. Photo Credit: mgenka at Flickr.

Iconic symbol of Okinawa might be the sandy beaches, probably they are but in spring they are not! The weather it has in winter is not like what we see in northern Japan. Winter is relatively short with no snow at all. Though it snowed last year in Okinawa, it was pretty surprising but concerning as well! One of my favorite sakura spots on the Islands is Mt. Yaedake, where I would like to visit over and over again . I like to hike very much and it’s in my blood. So, I find that climbing up a mountain is charming than lying down at a sandy beach.

Mt. Yaedake is just an ideal hiking destination that I have discovered in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan. When you get there, the surrounding breathtaking vistas with pink sakura blossoms will blow your mind right away. I have to admit that Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival offers the best hanami atmosphere than rest of the spots you find on the islands. You may disagree, but I say it from my travel experience.

Bright colored pink sakura blossoms paint the entire mountain range making the place pretty amusing. I especially like walking down the winding road (with the blossoms on the both sides) and enjoy the moments while viewing the Kanhizakura’s mystic beauty with lots of excitements. How cool is that! There is a lovely park in the mountain that is actually the main festival grounds where you can find many food stalls, shops, nice playgrounds for little ones, and stage events.

2) Nakijin Castle Ruins

Pink Sakura in Okinawa. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If looking at picturesque mountains covered with sakura trees is not your thing, yet you have other option to enjoy this trip. But assume you are a nature lover who admires the beauty of sakura, don’t you? I always like visiting the World Heritage Sites due to their uniqueness, great history, and amazing architectures. Nakijin Caslte Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Okinawa, located on the Motobu Peninsula of Northern Okinawa, hosts a breathtaking sakura festival in January. Each year, a lot of visitors participate in the matsuri.

It is worth making a trip to this site as a result you could enjoy the castle ruins, the perfect weather, and the iconic pink sakura blossoms. You should take a walk along the paths (Stairs) through the castle ruins. In fact, they are lined with small glass lanterns. Guess what?! Actually, they are used for the night time illumination. The scene you see at night sounds like a fairy tale! In addition, at the main entrance, there are lots of stalls that sell foods and souvenirs of different kinds. Try some local specialties from the food stalls and find some cute souvenirs.

3) Nago Central Park

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Cherry Blossoms at Nago Castle Ruins. Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram at Flickr.

One of the most highly recommended places to view sakura in Okinawa is Nago Central Park. The famous Nago Cherry Blossom Festival is held here. There are lots of things to do and see especially during the festival. Climb up the stairs slowly and enjoy the surrounding breathtaking spring vistas as you make your way up to the top. Please note that the stairs there are narrow, so climb up carefully.

I have had a very nice picnic party at this site. We spread out a cozy picnic blanket, turned up the music, and have had some local foods including drinks that we bought from the food stalls. It was simply a relaxing moment that we might have missed. How lucky we were! The weather was pretty perfect on that day. Participating in hanami here at Nago Central Park is one of the best ways to get to know the people as well as the tradition that Okinawan possess. Don’t miss the eye-catching performances performed by the Taiko drummers and Eisa dancers.

4) Yaese Park

Wonderful capture! Photo Credit: troy_williams at Flickr.

Okinawa may seem to you a place of staircase. It is true that you have to climb up the staircases to celebrate the hanami in Okinawa. If you do like to go on a hike, I am sure every hanami spot described so far in this post could offer you a great hiking adventure.

If you don’t mind to take a hike again, head to Yaese Park, located on the southeast coast of mainland Okinawa. There are approximately 500 sakura trees. They look pretty impressive when all the cherry trees are in full bloom. If possible get there in the evening and you will witness an incredible night scene as the trees are illuminated beautifully with small lanterns. Besides viewing cherry blossoms you can walk all over the park to witness some of the ruins of Yaese Castle. Please note that the park lies on a small mountain; from the top of it you see impressive scenic views of the surrounding landscapes.

Useful Okinawa Spring Travel Tips

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Sakura in Zamami, Okinawa. Photo Credit: shin–k at Flickr.

1) Before you decide to get to Okinawa to see its stunning sakura, please make sure you check out the cherry blossom forecast.

2) The weather in Okinawa during the spring is pretty cool with little breeze and bright sun. However, it is highly recommended to bring a light jacket.

3) As you have to hike, I suggest you to wear a pair that is suitable to walk around.

4) Apart from visiting all those best cherry blossom viewing places, you should participate in the Naha Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival is held at Yogi Park which is only 20 minutes away from Naha Airport.

5) Are you pleased viewing sakura in Okinawa?! That’s not the end of your trip; explore other seasonal flower events that are held in early spring time as well.

6) The best way to explore all the hanami spots is by car, so rent a car and drive it through either Okinawa Expressway or other scenic routes on the main island (Okinawa Hanto).

7) Book an air ticket to fly to Okinawa from Tokyo. In fact, this is the most recommended mode of transport.

Welcome to Okinawa! Celebrate Hanami 2019

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Pink Sakura and Mount Yae (Yaedake) Winding Road. Photo Credit: Dru at Flickr.

Been to Okinawa in spring before? If so then make sure to comment below and share your recommendations. Those who have not been to Okinawa and planning to get there in January/February, you should head to Okinawa this year. Viewing cherry blossoms on the islands of Okinawa would be a great outdoor adventure. Probably this outdoor adventure is going to be your all time favorite one.

When spring rolls around, everyone comes out to see sakura. In addition, they celebrate the year’s first outdoor picnic party, walk down the streets, hike up to the mountains and enjoy the views of the stunning cherry blossoms. That’s the custom that belongs to locals of Okinawa, in fact, to all Japanese people. Forget the beautiful famous sandy beaches of Okinawa for instance, just concentrate your mind on the dark pink blossoms, and I am sure you will be delighted by the pleasant spring nature out there!

Lastly, read a 3-day Okinawa itinerary – crafted especially for those who want to see visit Okinawa during the cherry blossom season.