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[2021 Edition] Top Picks! The 10 Best Spots to View Brilliant Flowers of Okinawa
post : 2021.02.16 21:00
The islands of Okinawa are blessed with a mild climate throughout the year and people can enjoy beautiful and colorful flowers all year round. Okinawa has a wide variety of flowers like the tropical hibiscus flowers, the brilliant pink Hikan Zakura cherries that bloom the earliest in all of Japan, and also the Deigo or the Indian coral, a flowering tree made more famous through the lyrics of a popular song about Okinawa. In this article, we’ll introduce flowers that you don’t often see in other parts of Japan and the locations where you can appreciate these tropical, Okinawan flowers, along with photos and trivia.
1. The Most Popular Among Tropical Flowers! Hibiscus Flowers are a Must-See
When people think of tropical flowers, the hibiscus is probably one of the first to come to mind. Here in Okinawa, the locals have cherished this flower for many, many years, and refer to them as “Aka Bana”, literally meaning “red flowers”. The brilliant red hibiscus flowers are commonly seen around the islands, but in fact, there are 200 varieties of hibiscus plants. There are also many colors of hibiscus flowers other than red, ranging from white, pink, yellow, orange, and purple.
Summer isn’t the only time of year that we can appreciate these cheerful flowers. In Okinawa, you’ll see hibiscus flowers in full bloom throughout the year, even in the wintertime.
The hibiscus is familiar to many, as they are planted in the gardens of parks and public facilities, and you’ll see them in various places around town.
2. The First Cherry Blossoms in All of Japan: Hikan Zakura Cherry Trees
People across Japan anticipate the flowering of cherries every year, and Okinawa’s Hikan Zakura cherry trees are well-known as they’re the first to bloom in the country. In Japan, news programs forecast the blooming of cherries in each region of the country and make official announcements when they bloom. The official announcement of the arrival of cherry blossoms in Okinawa is made according to the “sample tree” at Sueyoshi Park in Shuri, Naha.
For the year 2021, the official announcement was made on January 4, a little earlier than other years, which is usually around January 18. This year, we saw the blossoms about two weeks earlier than the average year.
Hikan Zakura is characterized by the dark pink petals of the flowers which bloom facing downward.
When we look upon the branches, the charming flowers seem to be greeting us as they face down toward us.
Hikan Zakura is also known as Kanhi Zakura, but to differentiate it from the Higan Zakura, the same type of cherries that flower in other parts of Japan, these cherries are referred to as Kanhi Zakura.
3. Light-Pink Cherry Blossoms Like Those in the Mainland: Kumeno Sakura
In the district of Izumi in Motobu Town, Kunigami, which is located in the northern region of Okinawa Island, you will come across the Kumeno Sakura.
The Kumeno Sakura have light-colored flowers like the cherry trees in other parts of Japan.
These cherries were brought to Okinawa’s Kume Island from China before the war, and their branches were grafted and the numbers increased in Izumi, Motobu Town.
The petals are white when they first begin to flower, but eventually, they change to light pink.
Just like the Somei Yoshino cherry trees in mainland Japan, these flowers shed their petals one by one.
4. The Symbol of Okinawa Prefecture! The Deigo is Okinawa’s Prefectural Flower
The Deigo (English name: Indian coral) is designated as the Prefectural Flower of Okinawa. The bright red flowers are tropical in appearance and are in full bloom at the beginning of summer, a season known in Okinawa as Urizun.
There’s a local trivia regarding Deigo flowers and typhoons.
People say, “The more spectacular the Deigo flowers bloom, the more typhoons we’ll see during the typhoon season.”
It’s surprising and interesting that the Deigo flowers are somewhat like messengers for the local people on predicting the frequency of typhoons for that year.
The lyrics to the worldwide hit, Shima Uta, by the Japanese musical group, THE BOOM, sings:
♪The Deigo flowers are in full bloom, calling the winds, and bringing the storms.
Let’s wait and see how the Deigo will bloom in the year 2021.
5. Not Just Cherry Blossoms! Azaleas are First to Bloom, Too!
Okinawa enjoys mild weather compared to the rest of Japan, and so the azaleas bloom about two months earlier than other prefectures.
At Higashi Village in the northern region of Okinawa Island, you can enjoy the spectacular sights of azaleas in full bloom.
Every year in March, Higashi Village holds their Azalea Festival in the Azalea Gardens in Higashi Village People’s Forest Park that spans a whopping 4 hectares. There are eight varieties of azaleas planted in the gardens which include the Kerama Tsusuji azaleas that are a native species of Okinawa. Visitors can enjoy the brilliant red, pink, reddish-purple, purple, white, and other colors of the blooming azaleas during this time of year.
(As of February 1, 2021, it is undetermined whether the Azalea Festival will be held this year.)
6. A Breathtaking Sight: The Brilliant White of the Easter Lilies and the Bright Blue Sky
Around the end of April and the beginning of May is a series of Japanese holidays known as Golden Week, and this is the best time of the year to view the beautiful Easter Lilies.
At the Lily Field Park on the northern shores of Ie Island, there are over 200,000 lilies planted in the gardens, and together with naturally blooming ones, visitors can view over one million Easter Lilies.
Of course, you can see these beautiful flowers on Okinawa Island, without taking a trip out to Ie Island.
The Okinawa Comprehensive Athletic Park situated in the central region of Okinawa Island is another place to view Easter Lilies.
There’s a Lily Garden in the Park that is bursting with lilies.
There are two gazebos for visitors to relax and enjoy the wonderful sights and fragrances of these lovely flowers.
The pure white of the Easter Lily petals against the backdrop of the beautiful blue of the Okinawan sky is truly a sight to behold.
7. Brilliant and Energetic Yellow Flowers! The Ippei Flowers
These yellow flowers are Ipei or known in Okinawa as Ippei, and they bloom around February to March on the islands.
They are known as golden trumpet trees in English, and they bloom on Okinawa about a month or two earlier than other parts of Japan.
Ippei flowers can be seen everywhere from the southern to northern regions of Okinawa Island. In the back streets of Chuo Park Avenue in Okinawa City, there’s a street named Ippei Street, with over 1,000 Ippei flowers blooming along the street.
It is said that the type of Ippei with pink flowers, instead of yellow, was introduced first, and in Izumi, Motobu Town in the northern region of Okinawa Island, you can see these pretty pink Ippei flowers in bloom as well.
8. Rice Paddies Turn to Purple Carpets with the Blooming Ochroleuca Flowers
The Ochroleuca flowers are in full bloom from the end of March to April every year.
In Ogimi Village, situated in the northern region of Okinawa Island, visitors can enjoy the sights of rice paddies painted purple with the blooming of the Ochroleuca flowers.
The Ochroleuca are a type of irises and are grown in these paddies to ship out to other parts of Japan to be used for Ikebana and other flower arrangements.
With the serenity of the rice paddies and pasture-like sights of the community, the area has become well-known through word-of-mouth as a fantastic flower-viewing spot during the season.
The flower language of the Ochroleuca is “good news”.
We hope to receive “good news” soon.
9. Flowers that Bloom for One Night Only: Sagari Bana
The Japanese name for the barringtonia flowers is “Sagari Bana”, literally meaning “hanging flowers”. As the name describes, the barringtonias have 10 to 20 flowering buds on the long, narrow branches that hang at about 60cm in length.
They are tropical and subtropical plants and grow naturally from the islands of Okinawa to Amami in Japan.
The flowers bloom in the evenings of summer, with delicate colors of white, light and darker pinks, looking like fireworks that color the night skies.
The flowers bloom only at night, and by early morning, the whole flower drops to the ground. Although ephemeral, the branches have numerous buds that grow one after another, so the barringtonia flowers can be seen every night. The sight of these flowers floating on the water is breathtaking and magical.
These flowers come to bloom from around the end of June to the latter half of July.
We would be delighted if you get the chance to see these delicate, short-lived flowers that bloom for just one night during a limited season.
10. Adding Color to the Streets of Okinawa: Tokkuri Kiwata
When the hot subtropical temperatures in Okinawa begin to ease from September to around December, we often see trees along the streets that are bursting with pink flowers.
These trees are called Tokkuri Kiwata in Japanese, with Tokkuri meaning sake bottles and Wata meaning cotton (and Ki meaning tree). As described in the name, these flowers have seeds wrapped in white, cotton-like fibers inside their petals. Interestingly, its common name in English is floss silk trees, but they’re also sometimes referred to as “drunken trees” because the shape of the trunks resembles wooden beer kegs.
The 140 or so Tokkuri Kiwata trees planted along the Okinawa Expressway from the Kin IC to Ginoza IC are so spectacular it is designated by the prefecture as one of the 100 scenic sights of flowers and greenery in Okinawa.
We hope you enjoyed this article introducing the brilliant flowers that bloom in the tropical paradise of Okinawa, accompanied by photographs taken by our talented Okinawa CLIP photo writers. There are numerous varieties of plants that grow in the subtropical climate of Okinawa which can’t be seen in other parts of Japan, and their flowers color the islands with their spectacular beauty.
Okinawa is known for its beautiful waters, but when you’re visiting, we hope you’ll enjoy the flora of the region as well.
The flowers introduced in this article can be enjoyed at flower festivals held during their blooming seasons, however, the holding of these festivals planned for the fiscal year 2021 are still undetermined. Please check the details through the information provided by the festival hosts and sponsors.