Okinawa is the very first location where cherry blossoms bloom in Japan. Nago is located in the south side of Motobu Peninsula, and Nago’s sakura bloom almost at the same time as Nakijin Castle after Mount Yaedake. This time, Umi the editor headed to Nangusuku Park (Nago Castle), equally famous sight for cherry blossoms in comparison to Nakijin Castle and Mount Yaedake in the northern area.
There are 2 ways to approach Nago Castle.
The first route is to start from the Nationally designated natural monument (the symbol of Nago city) “Hinpun Gajyumaru” (Hinpun Banyan Tree), which is in a close distance to Nago city center. The tree is said to be about 300 years old and it is believed to give out good fortunes for money, success, and marriage.
Kouchi River’s cherry blossom street is already blooming with sakura. When you walk along the river, you will arrive at Nago Castle Park South Entrance. During the cherry blossom festival on January 26th and 27th of 2019, food stalls will line up along the river.
Both sides of the stairs are also cherry blossoms.
It is not clear when Nago Castle was built, but it is said that the head of Nakijin Castle’s younger brother used to live here. Nago Castle has no stone walls, however, the castle still remains a structure called “Horikiri” (dry moat) which many mountain castles adopted to keep off the invasion of enemies. Many ceramics and stoneware are excavated here at Nago Castle.
There are more than 400 stone steps from the Nago Castle Park South Entrance. When you go further up there is a torii (a gateway at the entrance to a shrine) and a shrine. From there, you can look over the cityscape together with cherry blossoms. You can go even higher up but it might be too tiring on foot.
The second route is to go by a car (rental) or a taxi from the city center to Nago Castle Park North Entrance. Recommend to aim for the “Nago Central Park Observatory” or “Nago Castle Park Visitor Center — Subaco”.
I decided to go to Nago Castle Park Visitor Center — Subaco. It takes about 10 minutes from Nago city’s Nago crossroad.
From the stylish building on the slopes of the mountain, you get to see the whole view of Nago city and Nago Bay at the foot of the mountain.
The landscape of the mountain side is full of greenery, which is also soothing. I wonder what it would be like at the cherry blossom season!?
Subaco’s interior is decorated with a warm atmosphere using wood materials.
They sell original drinks and sweets as well as sundry goods and farm-fresh vegetables.
Just underneath of Subaco is the “Sakura no Sono” (cherry blossom orchard). Here is the best location for the cherry blossoms. Shuttle buses from the Nago Fishing Port only operate during the 2 days of Sakura Festival.
It is a perfect place to appreciate cherry blossoms at your own time while walking around.
Subaco is open from 10AM to 5PM. During the winter time if you wait a little longer after the closing time, you will be able to see the beautiful sunset. But, make sure you plan beforehand how to get back. FYI, Subaco along with another observation deck is also famous for the night view.
When you visit Nago, don’t end it by just seeing the cherry blossoms only. Enjoy other sites of Nago too!
There is the Nago City Municipal Market just at the Nago crossroad near the Hinpun banyan tree.
There is a bus stop for the local bus nearby, and can go to various places on foot. It is a perfect location to start your trip. You can also rent a bicycle from the administrative office.
On the first floor there is a grocery store, a fish store and a butcher’s store; restaurants are on the second floor. The market is indispensable to the daily life of local people.
The yellow long-thin vegetable in the middle of the picture is Okinawa’s native carrot called “Shima-ninjin” (island carrot). It is rich in carotene and is also used in medicinal dishes in Okinawa. The grocery store also sells already cooked dishes too.
At the fish store, I chose a “smaller” giant clam from the water tank and asked to prepare a sashimi.
There are table and chairs in the courtyard, and visitors are allowed to eat and drink what they bought in the market. I also had my sashimi in the courtyard.
“Itadakimasu!” (いただきます: let’s eat)
KOMOREBI is a shop for smoothies and scones, here I bought assorted mini scones and mango flavor seasonal smoothies.
There is a cake shop in the same market building named Miyagi Cake Store. No doubt they have cakes but they also make “Konpen”, Okinawa’s traditional cake. You can eat in the shop so try one with a cup of tea!
Very retro well in the courtyard.
An alleyway behind the market, there is a small outdoor cafe.
Further inside passing the bakery, there is “inno coffee shop”. They roast their own coffee beans and you get to have a freshly brewed coffee here.
A friendly neighbor cat came to visit too.
You can have your coffee on the outside bench or take it back to your accommodation!
Do whatever that pleases you!
Café de Ruishann’s pancake on the second floor is a recommendation. It’s a square pancake and it is very fluffy! Apparently, cafe’s “Today’s Special Lunch” and “French Toast” are also popular.
By the way, when you go to Nago, there is a drink that you must have, and that is“75 Beer” (75 pronounced na-go).
75 Beer was a collaboration beer produced by the Orion Beer (brewery factory located in Nago) and Nago Jyujiro Shouten Rengoukai (Nago Crossroad Merchants Association), which is limited only in Nago! Its sales began on the October 6th, 2018, and was quickly sold out in many stores. Currently, you can only drink it at places where this poster is displayed.
I was finally able to have 75 Beer in the restaurant (second floor of the market). It was bitter with strong distinctive aftertaste beer. At the moment, it is served while it lasts!
There are only two municipal markets in Okinawa, and that is Naha’s Makishi Public Market and Nago City Municipal Market.
◇Access to Nago◇
Take Okinawa Airport Shuttle from Naha and get off at “Nago Shiyakusho Mae” (Nago City Hall) bus stop.
◇Access to Nago Castle Park Visitor Center “Subaco”◇
If walking from Hinpun Gajyumaru (Hinpun Banyan Tree) passing through Nago Castle Park Minami-guchi (south entrance) it takes about 40 minutes. Be careful not to get lost on the way. It is easier to go from Kita-guchi (north entrance), walking time is about the same.
By car is about 10 minutes drive.
Nago Tourism Association
（Nago Sakura Festival 26th – 27th Jan 2019 https://nagomun.or.jp/event/1606/ ）
Nago Castle Park
Nago City Municipal Market
Japan Taxi APP
Okinawa Airport Shuttle
An express route bus that connects Naha Airport and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in 2.5 hours.
Going from Naha Airport to Nago Shiyakusho Mae (Nago City Hall) takes about 1 hour 50 minutes. Reservations can be made from the website (Available in multiple languages).
※The content of the article is written at the end of December 2018. It is subject to change without notice.