Might be hard to believe it’s still winter if you stand in this yellow dotted field in Kitanakagusuku-village. Yes, the sunflower, one of the synonyms for summer, is the flower most drawn by Japanese school children for their picture diary as part of the traditional summer vacation homework.
While mainland Japan suffers through the severe winter cold and record snowfall, Okinawa can enjoy the feel of summer at these warm yellow plantation fields.
The festival “Sunflowers in Kitanakagusuku marked its 4thanniversary in January this year. It opens the gate to the public from late January to early February. The location of the farmland is just behind Kitanakagusuku Junior High School, which makes an easy to find landmark for visitors to this destination.
I visited the farmland on the opening day of the festival. That day was cloudy in the morning, so my expectation to the festival was a bit low. I thought that sunflowers, as the name has "Sun" in itself, would be best in summer in the blinding sunshine. I was wondering if a festival of the flower of summer could gather visitors in the quiet rural area under the grey sky in the middle of winter. The bleak sky, however, started to clear up toward the afternoon as to celebrate the kick-off, and my unexcited anticipation was turned over at the sight of the carpets of the bright yellow flowers and the flow of visitors of all ages.
There are two fields on the festival site, the 1stand 2nd, and both allow the sightseers to wade in and enjoy walking through the green-maze. The 1stfield offers nice photo opps, with a small field of fluffy grass behind or the vivid contrast with a hedge of poinsettia. The 2ndfield has a large rhino and baby Godzilla-hatching. These are great hiding places for kids’ amusement to climb up on.
The festival is organised by the village committee as a way to boost tourism and commerce. The event showcases local food and products from vegetable, homemade sweets to hand-crafts and pottery, all on sale. I had a sample of homemade ra-yu (chilli oil) containing sunflower seed and it was lovely (definitely goes well with beer as well as cooked rice).
According to the official website of the festival organiser, the initial purpose of the sunflower plantation was to make good use of unused farmland in the village. The aim resulted in the unexpected new attraction for the local residents and visitors in and outside of Okinawa, adding a new appeal to the village as well.
Admission is free, with lots of parking. The flowers of the Sun are in bloom. This is the last weekend so don't miss this chance to warm up to the “Sunflowers in Kitanakagusuku”.
Note: the event runs from Jan 21stto Feb 5th, and the stalls are open on weekends.