About 650 kilometers south of mainland Japan, Okinawa Island’s warm subtropical climate ensures it offers the earliest glimpse of cherry blossoms each spring. Appearing in early January, the flowers are best seen towards the end of the month as pleasant temperatures give birth to a pink landscape.
Okinawa offers hanami explorers another quirk, with the island featuring a cherry blossom variety called Ryukyu-kanhi-zakura. These flowers are noticeably darker than the subtle pink cherry blooms you’ll find in most other parts of Japan. Meanwhile, Ryukyu-kanhi-zakura blooms toward the ground with the whole flower dropping from the tree rather than just the petals.
The island’s abundant parklands and mountainsides present several outstanding spots for cherry blossom viewing. Mount Yaedake, the highest peak to the north, provides encounters overlooking Motobu town far below. The Nakijin Castle Ruins are another stunning site, with cherry blossoms spread throughout expansive 13th-century grounds.
How to get to Nakijin Castle Ruins: Ride the Yanbaru Express from Naha Airport or catch the Nago Bus Terminal to Nakijinjoshi-iriguchi. Then, it's a 20-minute walk to the ruins.
• Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0428