9:00 Depart from Nakagusukuwan Port
Located on the east coast of the south-central part of Okinawa, Nakagusukuwan Port offers the ideal base to explore some of the most fascinating and authentic spots of the island. Enjoy breathtaking views from the top of timeless ruins and discover how ancient traditions are being kept alive by skilled artisans. Okinawa’s rich history and culture will warm your heart and strengthen the bond with your loved one.
↓ About 35 minutes by taxi
9:35 Zakimi Castle Site (about 1 hour)
Set on a small hill overlooking Yomitan Village, the Zakimi Castle Site is a place shrouded in romance and history. Built in the 15th century by the famous general and castle builder Gosamaru, the Zakimi Castle Site is best known for its curving stone walls and arched gates that make it one of the most beautiful gusuku (the word for castle in the Okinawan language) in Okinawa and earned it a spot in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Walk around the ruins to get a feel for what it was like to live in a mighty fortress and admire the sophisticated masonry techniques used in the past. And if this would not be enough, climb on the walls to get stunning panoramic views over the ruins and as far as the sea, and get your camera ready to capture the magic of the moment! If you are keen to learn more about the history of the Zakimi Castle Site, visit the Yuntanza Museum near the entrance of the site, which houses more than 60,000 items, including historical documents, works of art, real artifacts, models, and photographs. On the first floor, you will find information about the castle, as well as exhibits related to the natural and cultural heritage of Yomitan Village. The second floor offers you the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the history, nature, and folklore of Okinawa and the facts of the Battle of Okinawa. Here you can see also dioramas recreating a natural cave (gama) used as an air-raid shelter and a traditional Okinawan turtleback tomb.
↓ About 10 minutes by taxi
11:10 Yachimun no Sato (Yomitan Pottery Village) (about 1 hour)
Traveling means more than just sightseeing: it is also to experience the culture and tradition of the place you are visiting. Characterized by thick shapes and powerful decorations, Yachimun, which means “pottery” in the Okinawan language, is a traditional craft that embodies the spirit and soul of Okinawa. Earthenware in Okinawa has a history stretching over 6,600 years. The unique Yachimun style was influenced by the exchanges with Japan and other Asian countries, and the quality of ceramics improved over the centuries. Today, Yachimun is a popular ware appreciated by both tourists and locals alike. Yachimun no Sato (literally “Pottery Village”) in Yomitan is a picturesque little village that gathers pottery workshops, kilns, and ceramic shops. There are kilns in the traditional noborigama (climbing) style, the best known of which is the communal kiln located in the middle of the village and shared by many artisans. Watch the artists at work in one of the 19 ateliers, browse the retail shops and bring home an authentic piece of Okinawan craft. For a truly special memento, look up for matching pieces that will always make you feel connected.
↓ About 5 minutes by taxi
12:25 Pottery & Cafe Gunjo (about 1 hour)
If you still want to enjoy the charms of Okinawan pottery, but your stomach is growling, then head to Pottery & Cafe Gunjo, which offers delicious pizzas served on authentic Yachimun plates. The place is a family collaboration between the chef and his father, who is the owner of the adjacent Toshingama kiln. All the food here is served on the original pottery produced by Toshingama, to add a touch of color to your meal and allow you to appreciate the texture of the ceramic with all your senses. Baked in a stone oven in the shape of a Shisa guardian lion, also a creation of the Toshingama kiln, the pizza is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Be sure to eat it while it is still hot! After you have enjoyed your lunch, take some time to visit the annexed shop, which sells works from the Toshingama kiln. From plates and cups for everyday use to Shisa guardian lions, Toshingama carries on the Yachimun tradition with a distinctive, modern touch. You will surely find something unique and special to fall in love with.
↓ About 30 minutes by taxi
14:00 Mame Pole Pole Coffee Roasters (about 30 minutes)
After a day full of emotions and inspiring moments, nothing better than a good coffee to relax and unwind. But coffee at Mame Pole Pole is not only good: it is literally world-class. The second-best coffee roaster at the World Coffee Roasting Championships 2018, the locally born owner offers freshly roasted coffee beans and ground coffee in a wide range of expertly crafted blends. One of the shop’s bestsellers is the Gajumaru Blend, inspired by the typical Okinawan banyan tree, characterized by its dark flavor and pleasing aroma. Order the blend that piques your curiosity or let the owner choose for you. If you are more of a sweet tooth, try the shop’s original cafe au lait with brown sugar from Tarama Island. Its uniquely Okinawan taste will be a perfect way to wrap up your day before heading back to the port.
↓ About 15 minutes by taxi
15:00 Return to Nakagusukuwan Port
Posted on March 31th, 2021
Text by Silvia Telloni
Based in Tokyo with Okinawa in her heart, Silvia Telloni translates and writes in Italian, English and Japanese.