VIDEO| Okinawa’s urizun season a sign of rain, hope

Galingale bloom during urizun season on Okinawa.
Galingale bloom during urizun season on Okinawa.

VIDEO| Okinawa’s urizun season a sign of rain, hope

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Japan

With a semi-tropical climate, Okinawa offers not only a lot of sunshine but also a lot of rain. In April, the island experiences a delightful mix of both as the temperatures start to warm and the foliage prepares for the rainy season.

The transient nature of the month’s weather is often described with the Okinawan word “urizun.”

Urizun, the word, refers to a season that spans February to March in the old calendar. In the solar calendar, this would be sometime between late February and early May. This was also the time, according to the Okinawa Encyclopedia, where soil moisture increased and spikes of wheat would begin to sprout. 

As the definition suggests, it rains relatively often during the season and since the weather is starting to warm, locals look forward to urizun. As you explore the island, you might soon discover that the name “Urizun” is popular for bars or restaurants as well.  And many also look forward to two events that fall within the season – Shiimii, the commemoration of ancestors, and Hamauri, Okinawan Girl’s Day.

And, for the flowers, urizun is blooming season. Deigo or Indian coral tree blooms add fiery reds to the lush green landscape. Deigo was designated as the flower of Okinawa in 1967. 

Galingale is another flower that is closely associated with urizun. This particular flower is prized for its medicinal uses and its leaves are used to wrap mochi rice cakes. You’ll recognize galingale for its clustered flowers in white, pink and yellow bell-shaped blooms. 

Last month, a lab in Okayama Prefecture, along with a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo, discovered galingale holds anti-viral properties that could combat a Type-A Influenza, according to the Sanyo Shimbun. The research group is reportedly working to apply the antivirus element of galingale to bird flu virus and hog cholera virus as well. One of the researchers involved, Yoshihiro Narusak, said it would also be tested for a possible effect on COVID-19, the report added.

While this year’s urizun might not be the same as the ones we’ve enjoyed before, in addition to the season bringing lots of flowers and rain, it may also bring some good news and a beacon of hope with it as well. 

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