Story 9: Cherry Blossoms
First Flower of Spring
The two of us under Japan’s first cherry blossoms of the year

We decided to get married in Okinawa in January because at this time of year, in a certain place, something special happens.

“Let’s begin our new life under the first cherry trees to blossom in Japan!” With that wish in our hearts, we visited the northern part of Okinawa’s main island. It’s still too early in the year to get in the water, but on a sunny day, the temperature reaches 24°C, and it feels like spring is coming soon. With you in your white wedding dress and me in my white suit, this is the perfect place for our celebration under the cherry blossoms.

The blossoms we see are not those of Japan’s familiar light pink Yoshino cherry, but rather the winter cherry. At the tops of the widely spreading branches are deep pink blossoms hanging like bells. As we walk down the mountain path, a majestic pink archway of sakura welcomes us. The contrast with the natural green forest is stunning. As the blossoms spread before us, a smile spreads across your face.

At the World Heritage Site of Nakijin Castle, there is a cherry blossom festival every year. This was the home of the kings of the north, who ruled in the days before the Ryukyu Kingdom. Ascending to the top of the hill, we look behind us and see the magnificent colors of Okinawa’s ocean — emerald green and cobalt blue. Hand in hand, we spend a moment gazing silently at the color of the ocean under the cherry trees. This scenery has gone unchanged for ages. There, we feel something unseen but important — something that will never change.

In the great courtyard of Nakijin Castle, there is an engraving of a song about a certain woman. Her name was Shigema Utudaru, and in addition to being a legendary beauty, she was a powerful kaminchu (shaman). As such, she served the king and queen at Nakijin Castle. She prayed every day that an heir would be born to the king and queen. Her devotion and compassion moved the courtiers so much that she was declared to be Nakijin-umikami — the Goddess of Nakijin. Perhaps her kind spirit still resides here, or perhaps the bright colors of the cherry blossoms make it seem that way.

The feeling of certainty that we are blessed and protected — it’s not just in my mind. I feel the soft wind on my cheeks, and I hear you murmur, “Thank you for watching over us. We are so happy.” As we look up at the cherry blossoms above our heads, with our hands joined, you send off your wish on the wind.