January and February in Okinawa is flower viewing season. There are sakura, cosmos, orchids and even sunflowers.
Starting in 2008 the Himawari Matsuri is a relatively new addition to the many flower related festivals on island. It takes place in the tucked away farmland of Kitanakagusuku not very far from Camp Foster. The event features about 10,000 square meters of sunflowers which can hold something like 400,000 sunflowers when the fields are at their fullest.
Because the event quite literally takes place in the middle of some farmland the other farmers take advantage of the traffic flow and have fresh vegetables, flowers and even some other items like hand made pottery. During our visit there were even booths selling simple dishes to guests for a small very reasonable price.
The one thing that I did find challenging about attending this festival was the parking. As I mentioned above this festival takes place in the middle of farmland so there is no designated parking lot for the event. As a substitute “guides” do their best to “lead” you in a direction where you can park alongside the road. This means that depending on when you visit this could result in quite the hike to get to the fields themselves. Although this is to be expected I thought it was worth mentioning, especially for those with young children because it may be beneficial to bring a stroller. We also ran into a few problems actually finding the place to park. Our first time we were directed past the area where we could park and the second pass we needed to inform the “guides” that we wanted to attend the festival and they let us in. I don’t really attribute this to anything but maybe an off day for those working.
You can enjoy the fields by walking on the roads around the perimeter and in some places on a path through the fields themselves. The designated paths through the fields are lined with carpet making it easy to enjoy without muddying up your shoes. There is also a platform where you can get an elevated view above the sunflowers.
The event is free to attend and runs from late January into February. If you’re in the area and looking for a great way to spend an hour or two be sure to check it out!