Places like Churaumi Aquarium and Shuri Castle are wonderful to visit, that is true, but if you take one step further you can witness typical Okinawan scenery and how the people here live. Experience red-tiled roofs and coral walls, small but wonderful side paths that lead to the sea, or flavors produced in this special place called Okinawa. We will introduce to you the landscape and other things that are unique to Okinawa.
There are many secret side paths which hide the sea, and being able to find such a landscape is the “power of Okinawa”.
For a place where adults can enjoy walking, try the castle town where you will never get tired of the charming atmosphere created by lines of houses and castle walls that once concealed the castle. In Okinawa, Kinjo-cho is just one of these castle towns, with a cobblestone path left over from when Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom, built around 1522. Back then, this was the main road leading from Shuri Castle to the southern part of the main island. However, only 300m of pavement is left that can be walked on after it was destroyed in World War II during the Battle of Okinawa.
This picture was taken on the way down from Shuri Castle when entering the Kinjo-cho stone paved road. The road is very steep and narrow with a width of 4m and is lined by private houses on either side. In one of the side streets there also stands a large Bishop Wood tree that is over 200 years old.
The stone pavement is made using an Okinawan technique called “midare shiki”, literally “crazy pavement”, and uses both large and small pieces of Ryukyu limestone. The stone walls which follow the road are also made using a masonry style unique to Okinawa, known as “aikata tsumi” or the “turtleback technique”. Ryukyu has a history of masonry architecture which can be seen in the castles known as “gusuku” found around the main island, and the stone walls and cobblestone pavements allow us to feel the aesthetic sense of the Ryukyu people through the curved lines they draw. Why not come and travel back in time in this castle town of the Ryukyu dynasty?
1-Chome Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa 903-0815 (free access)
● “Shuri Kinjo Machiya store” is an old private house now used as a rest point located along the cobblestone road.
Whether you’re heading towards Yomitan-son in the central part of the main island to find Yachimun (“pottery” in Okinawa dialect), or driving through the woods to eat Okinawa soba in the north, there’s no need to rush back to your hotel if you reach a place with beautiful scenery. Why not relax and watch the sunset sink into the ocean? During the daytime, there are few people on the beach as many Okinawan people don’t go out during the afternoon in mid-summer.
The view from the Ocean Expo Park at Churaumi Aquarium. We recommend staying to watch the sunset after visiting the aquarium. Iejima stands out against the sunset.
For locals, the sea is a place to visit and they become attached to the places they like, longing for the sunsets. It seems that where and with whom the day ends is very important. Recommended spots for adults are Yomitan’s coastal area in central Okinawa and Motobu in the north. You can also see a beautiful sunset from the west side of the island. This photo was taken at Churaumi Aquarium’s famous Ocean Expo Park. Within the park is the Emerald Beach where you can listen to the sound of the waves while watching the sunset, creating an unforgettable memory. You can also find a good sunset spot by following the locals.
Ocean Expo Park
Address: Kunigami-gun, Motobu, Ishikawa 424
Telephone: 0980-48-2741（Ocean Expo Park Management Center）
Opening hours: 08:00 – 19:30（until 18:00 from October to February).
※Please confirm both the swimming hours at emerald beach and the opening hours of each facility in advance.
For both the locals who are used to seeing the hibiscus and bougainvillea and the tourists who are impressed by them, it is such a waste to feel content with only seeing the flowers in the city. Head over to the northern part of the main island to see landscapes of tropical flowers in what is known as “Yanbaru”, the forested northern part of Okinawa. The mild climate means that this area is full of nature and a treasure house of flowers. The first to bloom is “Kanhizakura”, a type of sakura. It blooms in the northern part of the main island in January, and reaches the south in February. Taking a trip that follows the flowers as they bloom is a real luxury, and it is definitely worthwhile making the long drive to the northern part of the island where the best sites can be found!
The flower that announces the arrival of spring is Okurareruka (Iris Ochroleuca). This type of iris is famous for creating sceneries that spread out across the paddy fields in Ogimi-son, Kijyoka. Around now, you can enjoy seeing the peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) and sagaribana (Barringtonia racemosa or powder-puff tree), and in winter the silver flowers of sugarcane. This picture is of shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), known as “san-nin” in Okinawa dialect, which blooms around the beginning of May.
For information on Yanbaru, head to over to Yanbaru Travel! *Japanese only
Some places serve food as good as a mother’s home cooked meal, and one dish in particular is Jimami tofu which has an addictive mushy texture and is made by kneading together potato parings with the juice of raw peanuts. The secret is to knead it for longer than a human can. The strong scent of peanuts and the stickiness are known as “Okinawa-ichi”, and its taste and texture are definitely a local flavor. If you enjoy the atmosphere and scenery of Okinawa, you will surely enjoy this taste as well.
Even though it is called tofu, it is actually made from peanut milk rather than soybeans.
Address: 603 Kenken, Motobu, Kunigami-gun
Opening hours: 11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 -20:00（19:30 last order）
Closed: Mondays and irregular holidays
Jimami Tofu 300¥ (tax included), Agu Pork Cutlet set meal 1,950¥ (tax included) as well as other meat and fish dishes.
Photography: Noboru Morikawa
Research / Author: Noriko Nii
Editor: Shiro Takagi, Yu Kimura, Tomoko Kotake, Shihoko Kubo
What is “INTOJAPAN”?
INTOJAPAN is a web magazine created by Shogakukan’s “Waraku Magazine” editorial department, which provides a gateway into Japanese culture and delivers the charms of real Japan.