I know it’s been a while since I posted a blog…life goes on in it’s wonderful way. But last weekend I was determined to do something that I look forward to every year. For the past two years in the middle of January, I drive up to Nakijin-jo beyond Nago and view the sakura (cherry blossoms). Last year, I also added the Tropical Dream Center to the list where I could go and be surrounded by orchids.
So that was the plan, but sitting at a traffic light next to the Nago Fishing Port, I was rear-ended by a local woman, which needed to be reported, since everything is a potential international incident. My morning was spent completing forms from various police agencies and returning to base to be checked out. I was okay but there went my Saturday and I did not want to go back the next day.
I was feeling enterprising yesterday however and I set my alarm and off I went. There is something so wonderful about making a thermos of coffee, grabbing an onigiri (rice ball filled with salmon, my favorite) and my ipod and hitting the road.
I have been to Nakijin-jo four times now, and I can never seem to get there the same way. It is a winding drive up a hill naturally as it is a castle and castles need to be situated to see any attacks coming with plenty of time. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of many in Okinawa, but this is the second largest of all the castles, Shuri-jo is the biggest, of course. Back in the day, around the 1400s, there was the Sanzan period where Okinawa was split into three nations – Hokuzan, Chuzan and Nanzan. Nakijin-jo (-jo means castle or the place) was the home of the Hokuzan king. Well, in 1416, Sho-Hashi who ruled the Chuzan kingdom attacked Hokuzan and ended up unifying all three nations, creating the Ryukyu Kingdom. That was your cliff-notes version of Okinawa history, but I think it is important to understand the people here are proud of their ancestry. They are not Japanese, they are Uchinanchu and this culture is their own. It is always a pleasure to walk around these grounds to gain a sense of history, a sense of understanding.
Nakijin-jo is not only lovely for the historical aspect, but to see Nature’s first display of Spring, the sakura. I am not the only one who enjoys this, since the sakura bloom first in Okinawa, there are many tourists who want to enjoy this uniquely Japanese event. The sakura here is a deeper richer pink which I initially confused with plum blossoms. I have since learned the difference. But the Japanese sakura is a much lighter and delicate pink and evokes something different from me. All beautiful, just different, like Uchinanchu and Nihonjin.
On Mainland they enjoy Hanami, which is basically a picnic with friends under the trees. Sakura viewing here is like a college football weekend in the South.
I also happened upon this lovely little bird I first encountered in Fukuoka, the Mejiro or Japanese White Eye (thank you Marta for telling me the names) in the plum blossoms. There were several of them lighting on the branches, but it was overcast and I only noticed them when the sun came out. When the sun disappeared, so did they, I was watching.
After a few hours it was time to move on to the Tropical Dream Center which is located on the grounds of the Chiraumi Aquarium. I decided to forego the aquarium since I observed the proper tourist etiquette of going once.
It was time for the orchids, to me the loveliest of all flowers. And yes I adore all flowers, but orchids are special to me in a way I don’t even understand.
Here are a few of the flowers I enjoyed there. I should say for anyone that lives here, it is only 790 yen for the Tropical Dream Center and 400 yen for Nakijin. A lovely day for less than $12.
So I think I will wrap it up here…I have a few ideas for upcoming blogs here in Okinawa as I am not planning any long trips for a while. Sorry it was so long between blogs, I am definitely thinking of something with the onsen culture as that has become my new obsession!
Take care of yourselves in the cold weather and drive safely!