Azalea Festival

azaleas_mjojqwes

This post was originally published on March 14, 2008. Because it’s azalea season again, we’re pulling it out of the archives for our newer readers to enjoy… with updated information from one of our readers!  The festival runs throughout the month of March.

Azaleas_mjojqwes

CONTRIBUTED BY JOELLE YAMADA, March 2008

Azalea_view_of_boys

So, they aren’t my favorite flower.  They’re too bushy for me and for some reason remind me of old people.  Not that I have anything against old people. In fact I have a number of them I love dearly.  None the less, azaleas are not my favorite.  But I’ve seen some pix of the whole hillside up in Higashi Village covered in azaleas and I have to admit it’s a right decent photo op for sure!  If this rain goes away, you may want to consider a bit of a drive up that way…The Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji) runs from March 9 to 23, 2008.  There are activities planned for the weekends, but still plenty of viewing (48k bushes???) during the week.  This weekend there are canoe rides through the mangrove trees (1000-2000 yen) and next weekend Okinawan dancing & Shisa dancing.

Azalea_mangrove_walkway_2

*** {Edited to include from comments}

Just got back from a FULL day out. Was a lovely day and the flowers are gorgeous. And there are LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of them. There is a path that winds up and down and around through the bushes. Lots of food to buy and *big surprise* azaleas!!

Azalea_entrance_2

Also would recommend stopping to walk around the mangroves before you get to the Azalea park. You’ll cross over a bridge just a mile or so before the Azaleas and right after it on the left there is a small park and you can see a brown pathway that is built out into the water. It’s a nice long walk around through the mangroves.

ALSO, right across from this little park there are lots of signs that direct you to turn for strawberries. If you follow the red signs (strawberries pictured on the bottom) it will take you to a farm. I’m SURE that you can pick your own, but my sign language evidently asked the guy to pick them FOR us, so after sitting and waiting (we expected to be called back to pick) the guy brought us out the 4 full containers we’d asked for — he picked them for us. Sigh. 300 yen for each container & fairly yummy.

photo credit: Christy Sutton

CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTY SUTTON, March 2010

A quaint coastal town that highlights the year each spring by their annual Azalea Festival.

What to expect:  Mostly paved pathways with a few optional dirt trails—definitely stroller accessible–on  rolling hills covered with thousands of colorful Azalea bushes. There will be stairs leading up to the lookouts and a couple of bridges crossing over a shallow creek.   Picnic tables are available if you’d like to pack a lunch or take in the local cuisine at one of the multiple food vendor booths (a bit pricey).  A Farmer’s Market is located in the outer/upper parking lot area where Azalea bushes of all shapes/sizes/color are ready for purchase.

 **If you’re daring enough and not too worried about losing your kids, the tiny trails between the bushes offer a maze-like wonderment for the kids to explore.

photo credit: Christy Sutton

Dates/Times: 8:30am – 5pm daily.  The final 2 weeks of March are the optimal times to travel up the east coast of Okinawa for a visual “treat” for the eyes.

Cost:    200 yen for adults & older kids, 100 yen for elementary students, free kindergarten (age 5) & under.  Free parking.

Directions:  Hop onto the Expressway, head North to Nago. Exit at Ginoza, 2nd to last stop heading North.  Turn left onto Rt 329, through Ginoza andtoward Nago (don’t be confused, you will NOT actually go to Nago, but the signs lead you that way).  Continue on 329 past Camp Schwab Gates 1 and 2 on your right.  You’re about ½ way at this point.  Just past Camp Schwab you’ll make a right turn onto Rte 331.  It is clearly marked with road signs. This road will twist and turn along the coast up and down through many villages—a visual treat in itself. About 30 minutes later you will reach Higashi.  About ½ mile into the village you will see a sign directing you to turn left to the Azalea Forest Park. (The hiragana for that looks like 2 backwards “C’s” and a backwards “J” with two little apostrophes…)  Take the left over a bridge up the hill surrounded by Azalea bushes on both sides and you’ve made it.

photo credit: Christy Sutton
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9 Comments
  • March 14, 2008

    I was planning to go this weekend, too. I saw some directions that say once you are on the 70 look for the Higashi Village Athletic Field on your right. Just after the Athletic Field turn left and go up the hill to the festival site which is located near Fukuchi Dam. If you don’t feel like driving, Kadena ITT has a tour to the Azalea festival on the 22nd.

    Diann
    Reply
  • March 14, 2008

    We went camping here and it is truly a beautiful location and the sights are worth the drive. I highly recommend this visit!

    Diana
    Reply
  • March 14, 2008

    Wow! This is great information. Had no idea this was going on. The mangrove canoe rides sound awesome. Hope the weather clears up. Thanks Joelle.

    kellyerace
    Reply
  • March 16, 2008

    This post made me so giddy. Our last base in Georgia was nicknamed the Azalea City, so it was our tradition to take an annual picture every spring in front of an Azalea bush while we lived there. I’m so happy we get to continue this tradition here (sometimes it the little things). We went there today and got some beautiful pictures. Thanks for putting this information out there!

    Reply
  • March 16, 2008

    Just got back from a FULL day out. Was a lovely day and the flowers are gorgeous. And there are LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of them. There is a path that winds up and down and around through the bushes. Lots of food to buy and *big surprise* azaleas!!

    Also would recommend stopping to walk around the mangroves before you get to the Azalea park. You’ll cross over a bridge just a mile or so before the Azalea’s and right after it on the left there is a small park and you can see a brown pathway that is built out into the water. It’s a nice long walk around through the mangroves.

    **I’m adding pictures of all this in a sec.

    ALSO, right across from this little park there are lots of signs that direct you to turn for strawberries. If you follow the red signs (strawberries pictured on the bottom) it will take you to a farm. I’m SURE that you can pick your own, but my sign language evidently asked the guy to pick them FOR us, so after sitting and waiting (we expected to be called back to pick) the guy brought us out the 4 full containers we’d asked for — he picked them for us. Sigh. 300 yen for each container & fairly yummy.

    Directions: Just to let you know, we took the expressway to Ginoza and it still took about 75 minutes to get there. It’s WAY up there. After Ginoza you get on the 329 and then take the 331 for a long time and then turn onto the 70 just before Higashi.

    Joelle
    Reply
  • March 16, 2008

    Marisa, I was pretty sure I saw you there — you guys were at the small bridge at the bottom of a big hill (near the wooden walkways to the little waterfall) — we were at the top. I waited to say hai for a bit, but then the kids started melting down! So funny!

    Joelle
    Reply
  • March 17, 2008

    Just a quick suggestion that you can always make a weekend of it by staying at Camp Schwab’s Oura Wan cottages. I’ve stayed in their 2-bedroom cottage before and thought it was really nice. Higashi Village may still be a trek from there but it would cut the total drive time significantly as opposed to going directly from the Kadena/Foster area.

    Here’s the link for lodging there in case anyone’s interested.
    http://www.mccsokinawa.com/lodging/index.asp?lodge=10

    Julia
    Reply
  • March 18, 2008

    Joelle –
    That is funny but I’m sorry we didn’t get to say hello. We were so distracted checking everything out. I can’t believe how many azaleas there were and I was probably trying to take pictures of every little inch of the area. Maybe next time!

    Reply
  • March 22, 2012

    My friend and I went today. It was very beautiful up there. As for the directions once you see the sign for Higashi Village it is about 10-15 minutes from there. Just follow the backward c and backward j signs that the original poster was talking about. It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there from Plaza Housing.

    BillieAnn
    Reply