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Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Bird Observation Point (Awase)"

Great Egrets perched at the Hiyagon Swamp in Awase

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Bird Observation Point (Awase)

     N 26 18.770E 127 49.644

Bird Observation Point (Awase)

I know that not everyone here is a birder, but there might be a few birders out here in Okinawa. It has become a hobby of mine over the years. What makes a birder's life easy is if he or she knows an area that certain birds frequent.  This makes it easy to set up to get that one picture. During one of my walks I happen to find a make-shift bird observation post that someone made near the Hiyagon Swamp in Awase. They put a little overhang for shade. Someone even posted pictures they had taken before of the Great Egret.

I personally managed to take some photos of the Great Egret and the Grey Heron myself. It was fun to watch them. There might be other birds that come there if you are lucky and depending on the season.

Hiyagon Swamp is next to the Comprehensive Park. It is mostly fenced off, but you are able to walk around most of it. The bird observation post is not far from the "Takahara Ditch" which I posted earlier. There too at the "Takahara Ditch" you may see some bird life (which I will post soon). To the east of the swamp and across the street is the Awase War Memorial.

What to bring: Water, Camera (with a good zoom, cause the birds will be about 300-400 feet at a minimum), umbrella, and notepad.

Other Areas of Interest: "Takahara Ditch", Awase War Memorial (Blog post coming soon), Awase Shrine.

If you want to see other birds of Okinawa, please visit Mike's Ryukyu Gallery of Birds of Okinawa.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"The Big Awase Slide"

The Big Awase Slide at Manta Kohen (Manta Park)

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The Big Awase Slide

     N 26 19.891E 127 50.106

The Big Awase Slide (Manta-Kohen)

I call this the "Big Awase Slide" at Manta Kohen or Manta Park. If you have children or even if you are a kid inside, then you might like this. It's a roller slide, meaning it has these hundreds of this small bars that spin to help you descend down the slide.

It's not 6 Flags Magic Mountain but something your kids may enjoy. There is also a field to play catch and a basketball court, have a picnic etc.

There are bathroom facilities. Parking? That is another matter. Find what you can and choose wisely. See what the other Okinawans are doing and then maybe do the same. The place can get crowded.

For a little kid then the slide may not work as smooth as you think. The heavier you are the better. BUT if you try it as an adult, this is what I recommend you do to make it go faster. You have to sit up straight with your knees bent and feet flat. Do not extend your legs. You won't go to fast, but fast enough to have fun. Enjoy.

"The Takahara Ditch" (Near Awase)

Takahara and Awase Ditch

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The Takahara Ditch

     N 26 18.862E 127 49.373

The Takahara Ditch (Near Awase)

Highlighted in yellow on the map is what I call the "Takahara Ditch". It may go through parts of Awase too. Leave it to the Okinawans to make something as simple as a ditch into something interesting.

There is really nothing special about the place unless you like odd things and a place to walk your kids or walk your dog, or both. It's an option for a route and to see. I like to also think of it as a good meet up place to chat with some friends or if you just need some time to yourself.

I wouldn't recommend driving all the way from Naha to see this, but if you are a local then maybe it is something to consider. OR...if you are a birder, then it might be a place to check out too. There is another point where the ditch takes you to an estuary where there is an Bird Observation Point at the Hiyagon Swamp.

You can enter some places at the bottom of the ditch (see picture album to the right). Okinawan kids do different things sometimes; walking through the water, catching the little fish that live there, etc. I wouldn't recommend walking in there barefoot.

There is some bird life every now and then at the ditch. I have spotted the Cinnamon Bittern and the Black Crowned Night Heron. They hunt for the little fish that swim there. I am gonna Map these too, cause there may be a few birders here on island that would like to know.

I personally like to relax in the shade at one of those Cabana-like structures. There are certain areas you can just chill.

Remember. Pack In, Pack Out.

Landmarks - If you scroll north or north east on the map you will see a Family Mart or the Toys R Us building as a land mar to guide you in. Parking? It shouldn't be hard. I see cars parked next to the ditch all the time. Park at your own risk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Oshiro Kozo of Kin"

Oshiro Kozo of Kin

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Statue of Oshiro Kozo of Kin

     N 26 27.299E 127 55.355

Statue of Oshiro Kozo in Kin

This is the Statue of Oshiro Kozo. According to the inscription, this statue was erected in 2004. There was an original statue that was destroyed during or after World War II. The original statue was said to be in Naha.

There were two famous people from Kin. One is Toyoma Kyuzo and the other is Oshiro Kozo. Toyoma-san is known as the "Father of Okinawan Emigration" and was the first to be responsible for Okinawans to emigrate (from Kin to Hawaii). He is more well known that Oshiro-san. Toyoma-san's statue is also in Kin and can be seen pointing to Hawaii (I'll have a separate post on this soon). Oshiro-san also helped Kin villagers emigrate, but it was to the Philippines. Hence his known as the "Father of Okinawan Philippine Emigration".

Before World War II, Oshiro-san helped Okinawans from Kin emigrate to the Philippines in search for opportunity. Things were going well till the War. The result of World War II had created bad feelings towards Okinawan immigrants, and eventually the small growing community of Okinawans ceased to exist.

A link to read more about the Okinawan emigration to the Philippines please go to this Google Book Link. The title is called "Okinawan Diaspora" By Ronald Y. Nakasone. Chapter 5 particularly talks bout immigration to the Philippines.

Oshiro-san died at the age of 54 around 1935. His statue was in honor of him.

Please also read about Toyoma  Kyuzo, or read blog post here.

Near this statue is what I call the "Kin Tower" which oversees parts of Kin. There is small area for shade and field if you wish to do a picnic or play some ball.

Other Things to See in the Area: O-Kawa, Kin Kannoji, Richamocha Cafe, Kin Watch Tower, Kin Castle Rock, The Gold Hall, Kinjo's Used Goods, Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail, Statue of Toyoma KyuzoBirth Place of Toyoma KyuzoKin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Kanna Dam"

Kanna Dam, Ginoza

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Kanna Dam (Ginoza)

     N 26 28.834E 127 56.927

Kanna Dam, Ginoza

This is Kanna Dam in Ginoza. It is off Hwy 329 just a few miles north of Camp Hansen. The "Pink Balloon Place Marker" is the spot where I took the picture of the front part of the dam. I took it from a bridge that is just south of the Dam's frontal facade. There are other places you can view the dam. If you scroll the map to the north you will see another 'Pink Balloon Place Marker".

Getting there isn't really hard. It's mainly off Hwy 329. You will see the Kanna Flee Market (See map of the "Giant Ginoza Bella Button") if going north before you turn left. However, to see the front part of the dam you do have to take a side road that may not be so obvious. Make sure you study the map above. I highlighted two routes. One takes you to the front of Kanna Dam and the other takes you near the top. That is one thing you will notice in Okinawa, that sometimes the most insignificant looking road or overpass can take you to some great 'hole in the wall' places.

There are other areas near Kanna Dam that are great just to rest and have some family fun. I recommend bring some lunch or Japanese Bento Box, picnic equipment (no barbeque grills), definitely a camera, umbrella, and maybe a football to kill time.

Once a year they have a festival there called the "Kanna Dam Matsuri". This year it happend on July 23rd 2011. For pictures of this year's event go to Ryukyu Mike's Blog.

Other Things to See in the Area: Ginoza Giant Belly Button, Kanna Dam Family Park, School of Killifish Pond.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Ginoza Giant Belly Button and the Mouth of Truth"

Ginoza Giant Belly Button/Mouth of Truth

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Ginoza Giant Belly Button

     N 26 28.420E 127 57.125

Ginoza Giant Belly Button (Mouth of Truth)

Here you will see a busy flee market off of Hwy 329 (Just north of Camp Hansen about 3 miles). You have to park near the building to get close to the giant bronze statue of the Giant Ginoza Belly Button. From what a friend told me, this statue of the Giant Belly Button was a gift to the town of Ginoza from its sister city in Italy. Ginoza is considered the middle of Okinawa, hence why the gift was a Giant Statue of a Belly Button (The belly button being the middle of your body).You can deposit some Yen in the mouth as a means for good luck.

Parking space is abundant. Right around here is the Kanna Dam.

Other Things to See in the Area: Kanna Dam.

Update July 28, 2011 - Doing more research I discovered that the original name was called "Bocca della Verità" or known as the "Mouth of Truth". The original stone today can be found in Rome, Italy. The stone is said to come from what is now modern day Turkey. There are different legends on the existence of this stone. One legend is that if you put your hand in the mouth and were a liar, you would lose your hand. I am not sure if anyone knows for sure why this stone was made. Here is one website that discusses different tales (click here) or do a Google Search and see what come up with.

Other places of interest nearby: Kanna Dam Family Park, Kanna Dam (Front View), School of Killifish Pond.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Shrine in Kin"

Kin Shrine (Kin Kannonji Temple)

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Shrine in Kin

     N 26 27.300E 127 55.288

Kin Shrine (Kin Kannonji Temple)

I lived in Kin for many years and I always drove passed this place and never saw it. It is not really promoted very well and maybe that is the way the want it. It is a religious site so it is considered sacred among the Okinawans. But you almost have to really look for it or you will pass right by it.

There is a parking area right across from it. I DON'T READ JAPANESE...but I am pretty sure its for the temple. Park at your own risk.

You will see the temple or shrine straight ahead as you walk down. There is a tourist office immediate to the right. That is where you pay an entrance fee for going in the cave itself.

It is 400 yen for adults, 300 Yen for students, and 200 yen for children (not sure what the age limit is).

Okay, about the is somewhat dark and slippery. They do have lighting. If you are gonna bring a camera, then bring your own flash just in case.

If you are gonna bring children I recommend them to be a little older. You don't want to be carrying a baby down there or even a 2 year old. They do have hand rails as you go down and up the entrance stairway, but the steps are rather awkward. It's not playground basically is what I am saying.

Water tends to drip from the ceiling, so just be aware. It may be a little slippery.

They store sake in these caves. You can have this done in your name, but I am not sure yet how that works. I will try to find and repost again in this blog. I gather there has been sake bottles stored for years.

I don't know the hours, but I imagine they do not open at night. It might be kind of dangerous so maybe that is why. Please keep in mind this is still a religious site and should be treated with respect and a sense of quietness.

Other Things to See in the Area: Oshiro Kozo, O-Kawa, Richamocha Cafe, Kin's Castle Rock, Kin Watch Tower, The Gold Hall, Kinjo's Used Goods, Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail, Statue of Toyoma KyuzoBirth Place of Toyoma KyuzoKin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"RichaMocha Cafe in Kin"

Richamocha Cafe in Kin

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     N 26 27.236E 127 54.943

Richamocha Cafe in Kin

This is Richa Mocha Cafe in Kin.
It is off of Highway 329 and right across from the military base Camp Hansen.

It's a great place to relax with nice background music. They have WiFi or you can use their ethernet connection.

Workers are really nice. Place is very clean inside.

Phone number: 098 968 5986.
Hours: 11:30am to 10pm, Daily.

Parking: Some people just park right next to it momentarily. There is a parking lot behind it about a block away. See Green Thumbtack.

Other places of interest nearby: Kin Kannonji Temple, O-kawa, Statue of Oshiro Kozo, Kin Watch Tower, Kin's Castle Rock, Kinjo's Used Goods, Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail, Statue of Toyoma KyuzoBirth Place of Toyoma KyuzoKin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Okawa the Natural Spring in Kin Town"

Kin Town's Okawa the Natural Spring

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The Natural Spring (Okawa in Kin))

     N 26 27.246E 127 55.674

Okawa the Natural Spring

Okawa is the name of the Natural Spring in Kin. You can park off to the side. Some people stop by to collect the water for variety of reasons. Some will clean their clothes there (it doesn't happen often). Nevertheless the water does look clean and fresh.

I drank the water...and still alive. Drink at your own risk. It does look fresh though. If it is a hot will be tempted.

There is an old playground across from it...

Okawa is a great place to sit and have a lunch or a short drink.

Okawa is off Highway 329. You will see a 'Family Mart' before you turn off to the road to go to Okawa. The road is downhill and is covered by green asphalt.

Other places of interest nearby: Statue of Oshiro Kozo, Kin Kannonji Shrine, Kin Watch Tower, Kin's Castle Rock, Richamocha Cafe, The Gold Hall, Kinjo's Used Goods, Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail, Statue of Toyoma KyuzoBirth Place of Toyoma KyuzoKin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Table Tennis Trainer" - Awase

Table Tennis Training Center in Awase, Okinawa City

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Awase's Ping Training Center

     N 26 19.013E 127 49.952

Ping Pong Training Center, Awase

If you want to get coached on Ping Pong you can go here. I doubt the coach speaks English so you may want to bring a translator.

THIS IS NOT A RECREATIONAL FACILITY. DO NOT JUST SHOW UP AND PLAY. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO PLAY. This place is for serious players. If you want to get coaching then his is the place you go.

Phone number is 098 932 1111.

"Nago's Big Okinawa House"

A traditional house at the Okinawa Big House grounds

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The Big Okinawa House

     N 26 37.254E 127 57.804

Okinawa Big House (Nago)

Great Place for Okinawa Soba. You won't find this on the main road. It's actually a large place with multiple buildings. It's a tourist spot, but not many foreigners may know about it.

They have some man-made water falls, a garden area, and some old Okinawan style architecture. One of the buildings is said to be over 100 years old.

Getting there isn't easy. You have to look for these "Yellow Signs" off the main road. I will post a picture of it. Go here:

See the blue route in the map. It starts from the main route (Highway 84) or from route 72.

Keep in mind there may be other ways to get there.

(Update September 2, 2011. Correction: The site is known as the Big Okinawan House, not the Big Okinawa Soba House. There was a mix up in the translation. There is a soba place within this site. The entire site is considered a tourist attraction of old style Okinawan type of houses. Because it is a tourist attraction (though not well known)  prices at the soba house may be higher than what you are used to. I apologies for the confusion.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Off The Beaten Path - Yomitan Village"

Where the Path Starts - Yomitan (Near the Hijigawa River)

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Off The Beaten Path - Yomitan

    N 26 22.088E 127 45.276

Off The Beaten Path - Yomitan Village

There is a small walking trail here where you can see the Hijigawa River. It's not much, but if you are an adventurous person you might dig this small trail and see a different view of the river. This is the same river that the Yomitan Red Bridge passes over. There are some old style cemeteries or 'Hakas' built along the side of hill and a small natural spring where farmers sometimes collect water (see photo album above).

Park where you can off the side of the streets. It's pretty tight. You will have to walk to get to this point. Trail is pretty noticeable.

Note: Depending on the time of the year, there are many mosquitoes. Always be wary of spiders and snakes. Please remember that the cemeteries are place of religious reverence.

What to bring. Camera, recommend shoes and not sandals, a walking stick or umbrella to move away brush and spider webs.

"Best Sushi Place in Okinawa?"

Minami Sushi

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Best Sushi? (In Okinawa)

     N 26 22.305E 127 44.939

Sushi Minami (Best Sushi Place on Oki?)

If you are really into sushi then you need to try this place. This is really a hole in the wall.
The owner used to live in the Los Angeles area for 7 years and picked up some American style sushi recipes. Some of his menu does have avocados on it. And the food is always fresh.

He recommends Americans to come between 5 and 7 pm because many Japanese who come after 7pm tend to smoke. Smoking is allowed here. If you can take it, then feel free. The atmosphere is still clean and smells fresh. There is a little play area for kids.

Phone number is 098-956-2276.

You can make reservations. THE PLACE DOES GET PACKED.

Opens 5pm to midnight. Parking is scarce. You can possible park in the school parking spot behind the building, but the gate closes at 9pm.

Park at your own risk.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Yomitan Red Bridge"

Yomitan Red Bridge

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Yomitan Red Bridge

     N 26 21.831E 127 44.899

Yomitan Red Bridge

This is the Yomitan Red Bridge. You can see this bridge often to the west as you drive south on Highway 58.

Best to park somewhere (like the MaxValue about a quarter mile away) and walk to see it. Bring an umbrella too just in case. I posted some other areas you can park denoted by the green thumbtack.

"Yomitan Beachside"

Yomitan Beachside

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Yomitan Beach Side

     N 26 21.844E 127 44.323

Yomitan Beachside

They have Gazebo type structures with picnic tables for shade. Not sure about the bathroom facilities. They do have facilities buildings in the area.

Wind blows very nice here. Grass is usually well cut. Great for taking naps and a dip in the water.