Monday, January 28, 2008

Sakura - Japan's National Flower

The Japanese gave a gift of cherry trees to Washington DC. They bloom every spring, much to the dismay of those with allergies. Cherry blossoms are a big deal in Japan, and Okinawa being sub-tropical - gets the first bunch of blooms. Yes, it's January - but they're in bloom here now.

We headed to Mount Yaedake (aka Mount Yae) for the festival yesterday. It was either raining or drizzling the whole time. Which bummed me out because the camera cannot be out in the rain without a jacket - which we do not have for it. Alas, using an umbrella, and early on "stepping between the raindrops" we got a few shots of the festival and the blossoms.

After we parked, this is the scene we approached; this was at the "base" of the mountain. There were booths with crafts, games, food, food, games... did I mention food?!

The wet blossoms.

Huge selection of fried and grilled ANYTHING (squid on a stick to pork ribs to yakisoba and takoyaki - basically octopus fritters), including soba (mmmm....soup) which I personally lunched on.

This tree had busy bees among its flowers, this is my favorite of the day - and trust me, there weren't many pictures.

I also love this lantern shot taken at the stand where we got lunch. The lanterns were lit and so warm & inviting on a chilly wet day.

As you drive up the mountain, the trees line the narrow windy street as it switchbacks up. The cars are often single-file to avoid hitting branches - and pedestrians with umbrellas!

More through the windshield. If it wasn't raining, I can't imagine how crowded it might've been!

Mount Yaedake is apparently the island’s second highest point at 453.4 meters (1487 feet), and has more than 4,000 Taiwan cherry trees. FYI, the Yaedake area is also the orchids capital of Okinawa. These cherry trees are different from the light pink blooms you see on mainland and in DC (as you can tell from the pictures). They're a darker pink, and they last longer - about a month. Along the streets on the way to and from the area, there are sakura for sale by the branch to put in vases at your home. There are also lots of mikan (tangerines) for sale since they're in season - DELICIOUS!

On the way back toward home (after frustration really ensued from having to take pictures from inside the car....) we promised to visit again on a clearer day, and also to visit Naha in February when the blooms moved south. We also stopped by the Nago City festival, but as it was raining pretty hard and the crowds were kind of crazy, we moved on. We'd had our festival fill for the day. Here's a shot of Nago City from a bridge above it where we definitely weren't allowed to stop. Suwanee rightfully stated a new mantra of mine - "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

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