All About Okinawa
Cherry Blossom Time

After January 1st, Okinawans begin to think cherry blossom, when January and February's springlike weather gives cherry trees the opportunity to blossom. This is when cherry blossom festivals bloom islandwide. Okinawans celebrate in style with the Nago City Cherry Blossom Festival in January - complete with a parade, cultural programs and more food and entertainment than you'd believe!

This festival is one of Japan's most popular, since cherry blossoms bloom on Okinawa before other parts of Japan. Tens of thousands of spectators are expected each year, making Nago "the" place to be in January. Downtown Nago is lit with bright lanterns and hung with ornaments to celebrate the occasion. Visitors can also walk up hundreds of steps to a shrine near all the hubbub, lined with cherry trees and commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding area from the top. Here is where visitors can burn incense or make other offerings at the shrine, or just meditate and pray in a peaceful atmosphere.

The Nago City Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off the season's festivals and holidays, including Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) on January 15 and a flower festival held prefecture-wide. Coming of Age Day is for young men and woman who have turned 20 in the preceding year. They dress in traditional kimonos and attend ceremonies and festivities at local government offices, shrines, and family gatherings.

Author Jayne A. Hitchcock (far left) at the Cherry Blossom Festival with some friends

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