There are many legends about the beginning of Ryukyu in Southern Okinawa, and the nature behind the stories still remains. Let’s trace such nature spots on this trip. The trip begins with panoramic views, and the scent of green trees and the cool sea breeze will be easing your body and soul by the end of your journey.
On this southern trip, first you will spend time getting to know Nanjo City, which offers much in the way of nature. After crossing Nirai Kanai Bridge with its view of the blue ocean, you will arrive at Sefa Utaki. The most sacred place in all the Ryukyu islands, and a spot that will ease your mind. Drive 15 minutes from there and have lunch at the restaurant Yamanochaya Rakusui. Passing by the road to Ojima Island, turning right you leave the seaside road, and head to Okinawa World. On the opposite side, there is a forest called Valley of Gangara which was formed when a cave collapsed.
Look out onto a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean from this bridge. You can see Kudaka Island, the so-called God’s Island, beyond in the ocean. As parking on the bridge is prohibited, please park at the observatory to enjoy the view. Although it is one bridge, there are actually two names on it. The one on the landward side is named Nirai Bridge, and the ocean side is Kanai Bridge. In Okinawan language, Nirai Kanai means a sacred land which is believed to exist beyond the sea. Enjoy the superb view while wondering about the possibilities of this mysterious world.
This place is one of seven Utaki, sanctuaries created by Amamikiyo, the Goddess of Ryukyu Kaibyaku (in Okinawan legend). The inaugural ceremony of the highest rank pythoness Kikoe-okimi is believed to have been held here. This is the most sacred place in Okinawa, and ist worshipped by many people to this day. It was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Passing through Sangui, the worship site made of two huge rocks, you can see Kudaka Island.
A restaurant with stone steps surrounded by flowers is located in the middle of a mountain. After entering, you will come across a natural rock standing boldly before you. It creates a distinctive atmosphere. A feature of the menu is healthy local foods using fresh ingredients, and the dishes here are very popular with women. A beautiful ocean spreads out before you as look through the windows.
“Yamanochaya Rakusui” Official Website*Only in Japanese.
This is a theme park that presents the local history, culture and nature of the area, and has a main attraction of the 5-kilometer-long cave Gyokusendo. A beautiful town reminiscent of the Ryukyu Kingdom era has been re-created in the castle town area by relocating houses that are more than a hundred years old. In this area, you can experience traditional crafts such as Bingata and making paper. Be sure not to miss the Super Eisa show which is the mix of traditional eisa dance and kachashi dance (performed 4 times a day).
A cave containing both a river and a forest called Valley of Gangala was formed when a cave collapsed tens of thousands of years ago. Gangala means the sound of stones thrown by ancestors. Many stone tools and fossils have been discovered here, and there is a site nearby where the skeletons of Minatogawa Man, the prehistoric people of Okinawa, were found. Rock formation, huge stalactites and a 20-meter-high banyan tree are must-see features as well.
Mibaru beach is a primitive, hidden-away beach with easy access
The natural Mibaru beach has a 2-kilometer stretch of white sand.
Although it has very clear, shallow water in which children can play, please watch for your safety near the water. Showers and locker rooms are available in a marine center at this beach. The most popular activity here is a glass-bottom boat which allows you to see through the water.
In this natural aquarium, clownfish, butterflyfish, blue damselfish, and filefish can be seen.
It is a relaxing beach with easy access.
You can get an insider’s view of seamen’s life in Ojima Island. Ojima Island is a small island of 1.6 kilometers in circumference connected to the main island and accessible by car. Along the road near the bridge, there are parlors, restaurants, fish stores and more. The most popular food among tourists here is tempura. In Okinawa, tempura is considered as a snack. Eating tempura of fish, squid, seaweed and sweet potato while looking at the ocean is a nice way to enjoy this island. Since many of the locals are seamen, the Ojima Hari held on May 5 on Lunar Calendar is a very exciting event. Haarii is an event held to pray for a good catch and a safe voyage and features a boat race using boats called Haryusen. Hari day is the most exciting day of the year.