I’ve always thought that Korea is a colorful country. This is truer in the spring when the entire country is covered by one kind of flower or another. Since cherry blossoms are among the first flowers to appear, it makes their appearance a fitting excuse to have a festival.
Jinhae (진해), I’ve been told, is the Mecca of Korea’s cherry blossom festivals. The entire downtown area’s streets are lined with cherry blossom trees and for one week people from all over Korea come to experience the beautiful sight that it is.
Unlike the more peaceful and relaxing environment that exists in Gyeongju for observing cherry blossoms (see Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms article), Jinhae is a huge and supercharged Korean festival . Right in the middle of the little downtown area is an enormous roundabout that gets transformed into a circular shaped performance area.
One of the main attractions and ‘must sees’ in Jinhae is a place called Jinhae Road. It is a 300 meter long (or so) man-made creek that runs down the middle of a city road. The creek is lower than the street, and there is a boardwalk at street level on both sides that people can use to enjoy the sights of the cherry blossom trees which are also at street level. The tree branches stretch out over the creek creating a beautiful scene.
Also, there is a maze of food, game, and special product vending tents lining the side streets. The food available is typical Korean festival food. There are foods such as roasted pig, Korean soup, or pajeon (파전), which is often referred to by foreigners as Korean pancake. Pajeon is basically some batter mixed with green onions or kimchi, and squid that is pan fried and served with soy sauce for dipping.
You’ll find snack foods of all kinds such as sweet breads, corn on the cob, corn dogs, and ice cream. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try a cup of beondaegi (번데기), stewed silkworm pupa, or you can try sucking the insides out of boiled sea shells.
You should take a trip up to the observation tower also located in the center of town. There is a cable car if you aren’t interested in walking up the numerous steps to get there. From the observation tower you can get a great view of the landscape. The mountains that surround Jinhae are impressively steep. They are so steep that I can only describe them as looking like huge natural walls.
Finally, there is a side stage and a main stage for performances. The side stage will be busy all day, and the main stage in the evening. The main stage’s seating area was extremely packed on the Saturday evening I was there. It was a madhouse. If you want to get a good seat, plan to settle in to your seat before the craziness begins.
For me, Jinhae’s major drawback was the lack of seating available outside of the temporary stadium in the middle of the town. You could sit at one of the festival food tents eating and drinking as long as you want, but when you want to just relax, there are very few choices.
Sitting at my desk and looking back, this festival counts as a major Korean festival and thus would be a great experience for a traveler. This festival is held from the last weekend in March through the first weekend in April. Which weekend will be the best changes with every year, so you’ll have to keep your eyes on the news reports and word of mouth if you want to have good timing.