Feb 10, 2014 -- NAGO, Okinawa - As the cool Okinawa winter air gradually warms to prepare for spring, residents know that cherry blossom season is near.
The city of Nago celebrated its 52nd annual Cherry Blossom Festival Jan. 25-26 at the Nago Castle Ruin Site Park, Okinawa.
As one of the southern-most islands of Japan, Okinawa boasts the earliest blooms of the “sakura” usually in January.
The festival not only featured the first blooms of the season, but also hundreds of vendors and various stage and musical performances for all ages. For service members and their families living on Okinawa, the event is another unique experience available to them.
“How often are you going to be in Japan? You have to take advantage of the time,” said Kristy J. McFarland, a Marine spouse.
Like McFarland and her family, many of the festivalgoers attempted the almost 400-stair climb to the prayer site. The climb was a test even for the Marines who attended.
“It was quite the climb,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse J. Edwards, a multichannel equipment specialist with 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It was surprisingly tough. It feels like I did a full leg (workout).”
The food was another definite draw for many of the Marines who attended the festival, according to Lance Cpl. Gregorio Montes, a distribution management specialist with the Distribution Management Office, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. It was exciting to find new favorite foods and try different things that they have not ever seen before.
“I’m lucky that I came around the time of year to experience this,” said Montes. “The food is great. I’ve tried so many new things.”
The real stars of the festival were the cherry blossoms, which while not in full bloom were still a lovely and unique sight for many service members.
“It was really beautiful,” said Montes. “I’ve seen stuff before online, but nothing compares to the real deal.”
Between the food, the blossoms and the fun, Edwards encourages everyone to make it to the next cherry blossom festival.
“It’s actually really nice,” said Edwards. “I think everyone should come out here. The local food is great, the flowers are beautiful and lovely. It’s quite the experience.”