NAGO, Okinawa — Japan’s first cherry blossoms of the year are beginning to bud on Okinawa.

Okinawa officials say about 20 percent of the bright pink blossoms already are open and most trees should be in full bloom by the end of the month — just in time for the island’s two main cherry blossom festivals.

The first, on Mount Yaedake, on the Motobu peninsula north of Nago, already under way, runs through Feb. 13. The mountainside region is home to about 7,000 cherry trees, many among the first trees planted by the U.S. commander of a communications station that stood atop the mountain in the early 1960s.

About 200,000 people visited Mount Yaedake during last year’s event, festival organizers said, which featured a beauty pageant, tug-of-war, concerts and Eisa dance performances.

That will be followed by the much larger Nago Cherry Blossom Festival, Jan. 29-30, when 20,000 cherry trees blanket the hilltop ruins of Nago Castle.

Last year, more than 268,000 people swarmed to the city for the parades, a Miss Cherry Blossom pageant, taiko drumming, concerts, food and, of course, a view of the pink petals of Okinawa’s unique cherry trees, festival officials said.

Unlike cherry blossoms on the mainland, where the fragile whitish-pink petals fall to the ground in less than a week, the heartier Okinawa blossoms usually last about a month.

But Okinawa’s festivals are no different from the spring festivities on the Japanese main islands when the cherry blossoms bloom: It’s a time for picnicking and partying under the cherry trees.

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