Okinawa Sakura 2024: Admire Japan's Earliest Cherry Blossom Festival

Last Updated: July 17,2024

Anyone who knows a little bit about Japan knows that Okinawa is the first place in Japan where cherry blossoms bloom. The earliest cherry blossoms in Japan start from Okinawa and go all the way north to the main island of Japan. As the southernmost point of Japan, Okinawa starts the romantic declaration of cherry blossoms in late January every year, and it reaches Hokkaido and the Tohoku region only in late May, thus forming a "cherry blossom front" from the north to the south, and wrapping up the whole of Japan with the gentle pink color. As the Okinawa cherry blossom season is upcoming, lose no time to contact our travel experts to tailor your itinerary for your private Okinawa Sakura tour now.

Table of Contents

1. Okinawa Cherry Blossoms Forecast

2. Best Okinawa Sakura Viewing Spots

3. Recommended Okinawa Cherry Blossom Itinerary

4. Other Things to Do in Okinawa besides Seeing Sakura

Okinawa Cherry Blossom

1. The Best Time to See Okinawa Cherry Blossoms

When can be cherry blossom enjoyed in Okinawa? The traditional cherry blossom season in Japan runs from late March to mid-April, but due to the high temperatures in Okinawa, the Okinawa Sakura season starts on the main island in late January, and it is the earliest cherry blossom to bloom in all of Japan(>>>Cherry Blossom Schedule Japan). However, it is amazing that the local cherry blossoms in Okinawa bloom in the opposite order, from north to south. The reason for this is that the Okinawa cherry blossom belongs to the species of cold Himura cherry blossoms, which usually bloom in the cold early spring, plus the low latitude and high temperature of Okinawa, the cherry blossoms need to reach a certain low temperature, so the Okinawa cherry blossom season starts from the northern foothills, and it takes one or two weeks for them to fill up the whole island. Currently, according to the related information online, the forecast for the cherry blossom festival Okinawa may be from 21st January to 15th February, the actual blooming date of the Okinawa Sakura may be affected by the local climate and weather.

Unlike the pink cherry blossoms commonly seen in Kanto regions like Tokyo and Chūgoku region, Okinawa's cold Himura cherry blossoms are darker in color, especially in the heart of the flower, and when in bloom the petals face downward like long bells strung on a string, making them very dynamic.

Sakura Okinawa

2. Best Places to Enjoy Okinawa Cherry Blossom Festival

The most direct way for locals to enjoy Okinawa Sakura is to hold cherry blossom festivals in various places, where people sit on the ground, admire the blossoms, drink, and feel the spring in the form of a party. There are so many places suitable for Okinawa Sakura viewing, including Yaese Park, Nakijin Castle Ruins, Mount Yae, Nago Castle Park, Nago Central Park, Yogi Park, and etc.

Nakijin Castle Ruins

Best Viewing Time: 1/28 - 2/12

Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0428, Japan

Opening Hours: Closed at 18:00 PM

Phone: +81 980-56-4400

There are many Sakura viewing spots in Japan, can you see cherry blossoms in Okinawa? The most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Okinawa are Yaeze Park and Nakijin Castle Ruins. Nakijin Castle Ruins in Okinawa has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus and Associated Heritage Groups.

The first time visiting Nakijin Castle Ruins, many people will be surprised that there is no heavy traffic outside of this famous World Heritage site, but it looks more like a scene from Miyazaki's animation: Japanese gardens full of classical flavors, flowers, and grasses growing quietly along the roadside, and occasional elderly people sitting in the courtyard and soaking up the sun. Even though the entire station is covered by the branches of Okinawa cherry tree, it looks very quiet and peaceful.

Although the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the most eye-catching of the Nakijin Castle Ruins is the nighttime cherry blossoms, where brightly colored lights illuminate the entire wall as if it were a dream, highlighting the soft side of Okinawa. A large number of Okinawa cherry blossom trees are planted on both sides of the steps of the walled passageway, and the whole city is bathed in a sea of blossoms.

Standing at a high place, you can see the vast ocean, and the majestic momentum and gentle Okinawa cherry blossoms blend seamlessly into one.

Of course, the Nakijin Castle Ruins Cherry Blossom Festival is always filled with performances, such as the Okinawan traditional folklore Taiko Odori (drum dance), the performance of the Nakijin Castle Ruins, and the Ryukyo-shiki (Ryukyu costume) experience, which add a lot of fun to the Sakura festival.

Okinawa Cherry Blossom Season

3. Recommended Itinerary for Cherry Blossom Viewing in Okinawa

Admiring the Okinawa Sakura is one of the best things to do in Japan in January. Okinawa cherry blossom viewing spots are basically all located in remote areas in the northern part of the island that are not directly accessible by public transportation. They are close to scenic spots such as the Aquarium and Kouri Island. For those who are not yet able to drive by themselves, chartering a car is the most convenient and time-saving way to get there. The suggested itinerary is as follows: visiting the aquarium is the main route, together with the cherry blossom viewing attractions. 

Reference itinerary for the Okinawa Cherry Blossom Viewing:

Parent-child tour: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Nago Castle Park, Nago Zoological and Botanical Gardens

Regular Route: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Nakijin Castle Ruins, Kouri Island

If you hope for more ideas, you can also check our cherry blossom itineraries inspirations, both 2-week Japan itinerary cherry blossom and 1 week Japan cherry blossom itinerary are available.

4. Other Things to Do in Okinawa Besides Sakura Viewing

●Soaking in the Unique Sea Salt Hot Spring

How can you miss hot spring hotels in Okinawa when you plan your cherry blossom tour? Even though there are so many hot springs in Japan, the sea salt hot springs in Okinawa are unique and popular among tourists. We recommend two of the most popular hot spring hotels in Okinawa: the Ryukyu Onsen Senagajima Hotel and the Loisir Naha Hotel. Ryukyu Onsen Senagajima Hotel is 20 minutes south of Naha City airport; it is a resort-style hotel where you need to take a taxi to get out. You can watch the sunset while soaking in the hot spring. Loisir Naha Hotel is a city resort hotel in Naha, the only hotel in Naha with ocean view rooms, and it is 15 minutes from Asahibashi LRT station. 

●Watching Whale: a Limited Activity in Okinawa in Winter

In winter, Okinawa has another special fun in addition to enjoying Hanimi, which is watching whales! From late December to early April, humpback whales swim back to the Keiranuma Sea in Okinawa. For up to four months, they will play and breed here. During this time, the whales' huge bodies, which are usually hard to see, can only be witnessed in the waters of Okinawa! Winter is a great time to watch whales in Okinawa! You can feel the power and elegance of the whales as they leap, flip, and flap with their 30-40 ton bodies in the sea.

●Enjoying Okinawa's Most Popular Winter Food

How can a trip to Okinawa during the cherry blossom season be complete without the presence of local food? What's the most popular food among Okinawan locals in winter? Let's take a look at each of them!

Japanese Shabu-Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ)

Recommended Restaurant: Onosai (おんやさい)!

Yakiniku (焼き肉)

Recommended Restaurant: Yakiniku Kotchan Yakiniku Kengo (焼肉こっち 焼き肉キング)

Japanese Izakaya: Awamori Sake and Seafood

Recommended Restaurant: Mirazan-tei (美らさん亭), Ginjiro Meguri (目利きの銀次郎)


In fact, Okinawa not only features the earliest cherry blossoms in Japan, when you take a visit to Okinawa, you will find that the whole island is full of a special atmosphere, as it still maintains a strong traditional culture, and does not seem to be eroded by the modern civilization. And in the local people's life market, there are lined up stores that are full of Southeast Asia style, and even tropical island style. No wonder even the Japanese people also think Okinawa seems to be a self-contained island. If you are looking for an island in Japan where sunny beaches and cherry blossoms coexist, this relatively conservative and quiet island will indescribably make you satisfied during Okinawa cherry blossom season.

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