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  • 執筆者の写真Aki Acton

Sakura at Yambaru forest in Okinawa


Our flight from Tokyo to Naha was a really wonderful on a glorious day. The sky was a dazzling blue, and the majestic Fuji-san was greeting us with its snow-capped peak without any clouds blocking our sight. We admired the panoramic view of Yokohama bay bridge and Minatomirai area, framed by the towering Fuji-san. As we ascended higher, the scenic spots of Atami, Ashinoko, Numazu and the Southern Japanese Alps came into view, where the sun sparkled on the frosty mountaintops.  The ever-changing scenery could be perfect for inspiring a complete story about Fuji-san!


Having arrived at Naha airport in the late afternoon, we drove north to our destination: one of western beaches at the northern part of the main island. We reached our hotel at Kunigami-son(国頭村) just in time for a spectacular sunset. A lady at check-in counter urged us to hurry to the beach and witness its beauty, so we dashed out of the hotel and ran to the shore. The sun, a huge orange ball, was sinking into the mountain range on the other side of the shore. Its rays painted the sky and the water in fiery hues. It was a breathtaking moment.


The next morning was started refreshed with Uchina breakfast cooked by local elders live in Kunigami-son, affectionately called “obaa”. Uchina breakfast is a local cuisine we can enjoy widely in Okinawa. The photo shows a type of porridge called “Boroboro-jucy” in local tongue. It was warm and savory, perfect for a winter morning. We ate it quickly and left the hotel to join a tour for Yambaru National Park.


A group of ten people including us gathered at the Michi-no-Eki, the roadside station, named Yui-Yui Kunigami(ゆいゆい国頭). We boarded new BEV (Battery-powered Electric Vehicle) and drove along the forest road that surrounded Yambaru-no-Mori (Yambaru forest). This ancient subtropical forest dates back to 70 to 90 million years ago and is now a world natural heritage site. It is also home to many endemic and endangered species. Yambaru (山原) means a mountainous area in the rural part of Okinawa. It can also refer to the back-country or the countryside, as opposed to the urban area.

As our BEV toured around Yambaru-no-Mori, many yellow road signs were noticed that warned us to be careful of Yambaru-Kuina (Rallus Okinawae), a flightless bird that lives in the forest. We learned that about 40 Yambaru-Kuinas are killed by traffic accidents every year. The population of Yambaru-Kuina has increased to about 1,700, but still about 100 die every year from various causes.

I also saw sakura blossoms in the forest as well as along the roadside, even in January. These were red-colored early bloomers (寒緋桜) that heralded the arrival of spring. I felt that these flowers warmed and brightened our hearts and helped us bond with each other. Especially in the cold and bleak season, we appreciated the beauty and hope of nature. Amidst the dark and gloomy news, flowers reminded us of the spring that was approaching, and we felt a sense of trust and comfort from them. 【AA】





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