Monday, January 31, 2011

The Cherry Blossom Festival: Stairs, Squid, and Strawberries on Sticks.

After over two years on Okinawa, my husband and I have been shamefully remiss when it comes to the annual Cherry Blossom festival. Actually, I was off-island the first year, and if I recall, I was sick last year. Whatever the case, no excuses this year because it's our last chance to go.

So, it was up early, off to Kadena to meet up with some friends, and up to Nago.

Now, the festival is divided up into three parts. There's the hike up to the shrine, the street fair, and the parade. Since it wasn't terribly crowded and we all still had some energy, we figured it would be best to do the hike first. That, and it was cold as hell, so a nice brisk walk would warm us up.

The hike involved stairs.
Lots of stairs.
Even more stairs.
And it wasn't just humans making the haul to the top:
Did I mention stairs?
For those of us with the odd knee problem, not to mention being woefully out of shape, it was a challenging ascent, but it was worth it. At the top was a shrine:
And the the view was...

Yeah. Always worth a hike to a higher elevation in these parts. Here are the cherry blossoms with Nago in the background:

As you can see, the blossoms are a little sparse this year. Part of this is due to the unusually cold winter, which can be blamed on global warming and the Freemasons. The surviving cherry blossoms are a hardy, cannibalistic type that made it through the winter by attacking and eating smaller, weaker blossoms. What you see before you is a ferocious, predatory strain of cherry blossoms. This festival isn't to celebrate them, it's to appease them and beg them not to hurt us.
They look so docile and unassuming.
Even when they hunt in packs:
They're pink and pretty, and everyone goes, "Awww, cherry blossoms!"

Yeah. Shortly after this picture was taken...
...the second blossom from the left launched itself from the branch and attacked a passerby. It wasn't pretty, my loyal blog minions. It wasn't pretty.

We managed to sneak through the gauntlet of ravenous, vicious cherry blossoms, and make it down the mountain in time for the street fair. Street fairs in Japan are quite similar to those in the States. Food, games, overpriced trinkets, etc.

The food is a bit different, though. These are gummy little pastries with strawberries in them:
And these are candied strawberries on sticks, which I'm told were quite good once you got past the teeth-shattering candy force field:

My husband, getting closely acquainted with some angry street food:
And, oh look! They're making little fruit-filled pancakes! WANT!
Wait. Those ARE fruit-filled, right? I mean, that purple thing in the's...tell me it...

Oh, God. No. It's not fruit.


And what have we here? Please tell me those aren't...
Yes. They are. *shudder*
Then it was on to the parade.

The first group came through carrying the Ark of the Covenant, which I'm told they took up to the top of the mountain for an elaborate ceremony. I wish I could have gone. I heard they were going to open it, and that would have been coooool...
Then there was this...thing...
I have no idea what this guy is...
Japanese parades mean lots and lots of dancers...
Lots of dancers...
I understand the guy leading this group was like 90 years old...
This is the ninja float...'s hard to see, but it's there.

Then came the dancing drummers, which are really fun to watch:
And with the dancing drummers came Shi Shi dogs.
What happens to children who misbehave during Japanese parades? Well...
Shi Shis 'bout to throw down in the 'hood...
Haters gonna hate...
Once the parade was over, we took our shivering carcasses back to the car. For lunch, we drove up to Pizza in the Sky, home of the most awesome pizza on the face of the freaking earth. Of course, it also had an hour wait, which meant standing outside in the freezing cold, so we ended up going back into Nago for curry. But we will be back to Pizza in the Sky, because it is made of awesome.
And finally, this spot always amuses me. Apparently when there's a dispute between a road and a tomb, the tomb wins:


  1. LOL

    Great pics. I just have one question: Why are the serving strawberries at the cherry blossom festival? I thought they would serve ... like ... cherries. :)

  2. hehe, you would think. ;) But no, it was strawberries as far as the eye could see.