It's that time of year again - Sakura in Okinawa! Sakura (cherry blossoms) blooms in Okinawa first before the rest of Japan, usually around end of January / beginning of February. Read all about the meaning of Sakura in Japan in my blog from last year here.
We started our Saturday Sakura viewing in north Okinawa at Mount Yaedake. From the foot of the winding road to the top, more than 7,000 Ryukyu Kanhi Zakura or Hikan Zakura ("Taiwan Cherry"), the Okinawan cherry variety originating in Taiwan and southern China, colors the mountain bright pink. We were a little early in the season but still got to see a decent amount of cherry blossoms :)
Our next stop was Nakijin Castle (where I visited last year to see the Sakura). Nate hadn't explored this beautiful place yet, so it was fun seeing the Sakura and castle ruins with him on this sunny weekend day.
After our day viewing the Sakura in Nago, we headed to central Okinawa, to the ANA InterContinental Hotel for the Chinese New Year celebration. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between January 21 and February 20; this year Chinese New Year (aka "Spring Festival"), fell on January 28 and initiated the year of the Rooster. It is one of the world's most prominent and celebrated festivals, with the "largest annual mass human migration in the world". Traditionally, the festival is a time to honor deities as well as ancestors.
Our friend, Hiro, is the Recreation Director at ANA Resort. He invited us to a celebration the hotel was having in honor of Chinese New Year, which included him flyboarding over the pool area :)
The festivities included traditional Okinawan dances and performances, T-Da All Star dance group, kenzi the street performer, Eichael Jackson (Michael Jackson impersonator), and Hiro flyboarding over the pool with lights, lasers, and fireworks. It was quite a show! And a fun way to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Watch the highlight video below (and some of my pics below that):
Two of the dancers performed with their paarankuu (Okinawan: パーランクー), a small hand drum.
Traditional eisa dance as also performed (read my past blog on the 10,000 eisa dance festival here). Eisa consists of men and women singing, chanting, and drumming. Three types of drums are used in various combinations: the ōdaiko (大太鼓), a large barrel drum; the shimedaiko(締太鼓), a medium-sized drum; and the paarankuu (Okinawan: パーランクー), a small hand drum. Watching eisa is one of my favorite things in Okinawa and always brings a smile to my face #oneofthemanythingsiwillmiss #isthereeisainsandiego
Another traditional dance performed was yotsutake, where dancers move slowly and deliberately to music while playing small hand gongs (castanets and wearing Hanagasa. Hanagasa is a flower shade/hat and a popular prop in Okinawan traditional dance. The red flower represents the flower of Okinawa - "The Hibiscus". The blue on the bottm represents the ocean of Okinawa and it's sounds.
We also got to watch Shishimai - basically a lion dance, which is said to have its roots from China. The Japanese lion has a wooden, lacquered head called a shishi-gashira (lion's head), with a furry body. The shishimai is usually operated by two people, dancing around, acting silly, and acting like a lion/dog. The Lion dance is known to have the power to ward off evil spirits and summon the god of harvest and wealth - bringing prosperity to the region. The performers came into the crowd, snapping their jaws at the kids and goofing around.
And finally, we got to watch our friend, Hiro, flyboard and dance high up in the sky! Super fun :) #iknowhim!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0223
5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0428
Hours: 8am - 6pm
Fee: 400 yen
ANA InterContinental Resort
2260 Aza-Seragaki, Onna, Kunigami, Okinawa 904-0493
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!