Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’” — Colin Sewake
DAYTIME SAKURA VIEWING ON MT. YAEDAKE
Location: Motobu-cho, Feb. 7, 2018
When I think of symbols that represent Japan, three images come to mind: Mt. Fuji and Hello Kitty and sakura cherry blossoms. Fortunately for me, I’m able to enjoy these beautiful flowers in bloom every winter season, even while living in this tropical prefecture. The weather begins warming in Okinawa before it does in other parts of Japan, so the sakura typically bloom here between the end of January and the beginning of February. Most of the blossoms in Okinawa are darker pink in color, which contrasts with the much lighter pink blossoms found in mainland Japan. They actually look pure white from a distance.
Sakura in mainland Japan bloom after Okinawa’s, all the way up through April. I was fortunate to see them in bloom during several trips to Tökyö while on Air Force Reserve duty at Headquarters, United States Forces Japan at Yokota Air Base. There were a bunch of trees growing on one side of the headquarters building. I enjoyed seeing both the flowers in bloom and the petals falling gently, like snow, every time I walked in or out of the building throughout the day for several weeks during the season. That brings up another difference between Okinawa sakura and mainland Japan sakura. The petals of the sakura in mainland Japan break off individually. In Okinawa, however, the complete blossom falls to the ground.
The petals falling on people enjoying hanami, or flower viewing, in mainland Japan also reminds me of how the season is celebrated there. Although I’ve never participated in hanami in mainland Japan, I know that thousands of people pack their picnic baskets and coolers with bento and beer and rush to parks where they spread their mats and tarps out on coveted space under a tree and spend most of the day eating and drinking and writing haiku amongst the crowd. Yatai outdoor vendor booths also serve up food, drinks for purchase and sell games for entertainment at these locations.
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