Search Map It! Okinawa

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Sueyoshi Forest Park in Naha City"

Sueyoshi Forest Park

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Sueyoshi Forest Park

     N 26 13.548E 127 42.819

Sueyoshi Forest Park in Naha City

If you love exploring and being around nature, then you're really gonna love this place. This is Sueyoshi Park. I call it the Sueyoshi Forest Park, and when you get there you will know why. Just like Kin has its 'Hidden Nature Trail', another very inconspicuous, but much larger park lies in the southern part of Okinawa, and of all unexpected places, this one lies in Naha City.

There are three main parts to Sueyoshi Park. The first part is the forest park itself, the second part is the grave of Ginowan Udun and the last part is the Sueyoshi Shrine.The latter two parts I will cover in two separate post. I won't talk much about the forest park itself cause words can't replace the actual experience. You will have to see for yourself. You can peruse through the photo album to get an idea of what to expect. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. In this post, I want to cover how to get there, since that will probably be the most difficult part to this venture.

Places of interest nearby: The Sueyoshi Shrine, The Tomb of Ginowan Udun.

What to bring. Plenty of water, mosquito repellent, hat for shade, umbrella for rain and to remove spider webs, camera, snacks or a bento box, a small sweat towel.

Caution. The trails to the Tomb of Ginowan Udun and the Sueyoshi Shrine are pretty much beaten down, however if you venture off to see the shrine you will see some other unbeaten paths along the way. I don't recommend going on them. If you can't see your feet within a 3 foot radius as you are walking then it is not worth it. The obvious danger is snakes. Over time, hopefully a trail maintenance crew will tear away some of the vegetation on some of these paths.

Please follow the instructions below and the study the Map Icons above carefully. If you don't read the instructions you may skip past one of the major highways without realizing it. Also, please note that depending where you park you may be required to do a lot of walking... up and down hills.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Katsuren-Haebaru Seaside Park"

Looking out to sea from Katsurenhaebaru

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Katsuren-Haebaru Seaside Park

     N 26 19.809E 127 52.178

Katsuren-Haebaru Seaside Park

This is a nice simple getaway by the ocean. It's not a fancy park,...just a simple one. If you need an hour of peace to yourself then this is a great place for it. This park is also great to bring the family. There is plenty of open grass to run around with the kids, and then later have a 'bento' lunch. It is also a nice area to have a picnic date with your love one.  The only sound you will hear is the ocean breeze that swishes in and out from the seaside. There is plenty of parking. They have a small bathroom facility and a soda machine. There are only a few places that offer shade, so plan accordingly. 

Getting there is not really difficult. It is almost a straight shot if you look at the map. However, due to some construction, you may have to weave around construction zones to get there. This is not too far from the Awase area for those who live in that section of town. This is really a peaceful hole in the wall. Enjoy.

Optional things to bring. Recreational toys like a football, kite, or bicycles. Bring essential picnic equipment as necessary.

Note to reader: I'm not sure what the official name to this park is. I used the Katsuren-Haebaru name cause the park is close to that area of town.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"An Intriguing Utaki in Maehara"

An Utaki/Monument in Maehara of Uruma City

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
An Intriguing Utaki in Maehara

     N 26 20.507E 127 50.793

An Intriguing Utaki in Maehara

Curiosity often leads you to find the most intriguing things in life, particularly in Okinawa. If you like exploring, you probably realized that you developed a sixth sense of finding things here on this island. This happen to be one of those times. Despite being 3 feet from the road side, this monument/utaki is very well hidden. What gave it away was the stairway leading to somewhere and next to it, a white post with some Japanese written on it. Stairways are built for a reason and no one stakes a post in the ground for nothing.

This is no Seifa Utaki but it may give a glimpse of the past and what the Okinawans were going through at one time. The Kanji on the back of the inscription reads "Established in 1964, September 9th", and on the front "Renovation Monument". The word 'renovation' was the Japanese interpretation of the Kanji. But it could also mean 'restoration'. This is just my guess, but if you replace the word with 'Restoration' and juxtapose it with the date 1964 then this monument could possibly have something to do with Okinawa's Reversion back to Japan. Now the Official Reversion happened in 1972, but this did not happen over night. It was a decade long process. The Okinawan Reversion Council was formed in 1960 (see source). It is not unusual to see Okinawans or Japanese erect symbols of peace as, a means of moving forward. The statue of Shinran Shonin in Yomitan Village is an testament of that. I could be totally off the mark on this but with little information around this intriguing Utaki, it leaves one to wonder, why such an elaborate place of prayer? Somebody knows the answer. For now, it's another one for the Okinawa X-Files.

Note: The Maehara District referenced above resides in Uruma City. Though this Utaki is right off the road, it is easy to pass by. If you click on the balloon icon above, it will show you what to look for.

Other places of interest nearby: The Mysterious Esu Shirube Stone

Monday, October 24, 2011

"The Yabuchi Cave Ruins"

The Yabuchi Cave

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Yabuchi Cave Ruins

     N 26 18.902E 127 55.719

The Yabuchi Cave Ruins 

In 1959, an important archaeological discovery was made near the Katsuren Peninsula, off a small Okinawan island called Yabuchi Jima, or Yabuchi Island. An information sign provided by the Uruma City Board of Education explains that it was here that four archeologist named Masahide Takemoto, Seitoku Hokama, Shoichi Heshiki, and Koutoku Miyagi first made the discovery of old ruins at this location. A year later, an excavation team, headed by Naoichi Kokubu, would later find old pottery and shell arrowheads estimated at the time to be 6500 years old. Shell arrows found here were similar to those found in Southern China giving belief that sea routes were a lot more extensive than previous realized. 

The cave is known historical site. There is an information sign translated in English, Chinese, and Korean. Visitors are welcome. There is even a guest sign book station near the cave. The Yabuchi cave (also called Janei Gama ジャネイ ガマ by the Okinawans) is also a place of worship. You may see some Okinawans come and pray. There are different areas where certains spirits are prayed to. Please show proper reverence around the area. As a rule of thumb, if you do see Okinawans praying, it is best to keep a proper distance for privacy's sake. This goes with all sacred sites or places of worships. Okinawans are accustom to curious foreigners and welcome cultural appreciation, but as another rule of thumb, please avoid taking any pictures of them praying unless they give you express permission. I gather most may not mind, but some prefer privacy.

Getting there. Getting there is a literally a straight shot, as you can see from the map. HOWEVER,  once you pass the Yabuchi Bridge the road becomes a dirt road. THIS IS VERY NARROW DIRT ROAD and only one car can go through at a time. At times you will be wall-to-wall against vegetation. Plus, there are farmlands along the way, and chances of running into a farmer's vehicle is very likely. There are certain areas where your vehicle can turn off and let the other vehicle pass. I DO NOT RECOMMEND driving through with a  large SUV or truck. Use proper judgement. But you at least have two options for parking (see next paragraph).

Parking. There is limited parking at the end of the dirt road near the cave grounds. There is plenty of open space to turn your vehicle around. You can park here if you have a small to medium size vehicle. The other option for parking is where the paved road becomes a dirt road. You can park here and walk about 1.5 Kilometers to the cave grounds. It's up to you. You will be far away from your vehicle so park at your own risk.

Safety.  The cave can get pitch black after a certain point and the ceiling becomes smaller and smaller with stalactites-icicles forming from the top. It does come to a dead end. Watch your head. Depending on the time of year, you may see lots of mosquitoes, so be prepared.  

Other places of interest nearby: The Yakena Straits Observatory

"Yakena Straits Observatory"

A view of the Yakena Straits

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Yakena Straits Observatory

     N 26 19.114E 127 55.081

Yakena Straits Observatory 

Between the Katsuren Peninsula and Yabuchi Island lies the Yakena Straits. There is a viewing platform, called the Yakena Straits Observatory,  at the top of the ridge line. There you can see small fishing boats coming in and out from sea. You also have a good view of Kinbu Bay, Kaichu-dori Bridge, and outward towards the Philippine Sea.

There is also a stairway that leads to an Utaki and a small cave down below. It is evident that people still pray in this cave. Furthermore, you will notice a mirror glued to the cave wall inside. I have noticed this on several occasions near other sites. This is just speculation, but perhaps someone placed a mirror there because he or she believed it would ward off evil spirits. I was told by a Japanese person once as I was visiting a Shinto shrine that mirrors were used for such reasons. But mirrors, in general, do have a significant role in the Shinto religion other than warding off evil spirits (See Encyclopedia of Shinto).

The observatory also faces an island called Yabuchi-jima, or Yabuchi Island. It is that island, that in 1959, that an important archaeological site was discovered, and is now referred to as the Yabuchi Cave Ruins...and will soon be Mapped!

Other places of interest nearby: The Yabuchi Cave Ruins.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"The Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center"

The Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center in Kunigami

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center

     N 26 43.700E 128 10.753

The Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center in Kunigami

This is the Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center. It's not too far away from Highway 58 and the Okuma Recreational Facility. In fact, as you leave the 58 and head towards Hiji Falls the turn-off to the center is about 500m facing north (See Map). Most foreigners may not be aware of the center cause there is no English on the large blue street sign near the turn-off. Hopefully this will change soon, since the Center's purpose is to raise awareness. This is another good spot to visit with kids if you are staying at Okuma for a few days, and it happens to be a rainy day.

There is not much translated in English, however, they have a brochure written in English explaining some of the different stations inside the center. Nevertheless, it is the images of nature that tell the story; that awareness is instrumental in preserving the surrounding wildlife in Okinawa. If more and more foreign visitors attend the center then it may give cause to have more translated explanations in various languages at each sub-station inside the center.

There are no animals kept at this location. Most of it is visual presentation (See Photo Album). They do have a station where you can hear the various sounds found in nature.

Admission: Free
Hours: 10-1630. Closed on Mondays, New Years, and some National Holidays
Phone Number: 098 050 1025

Other places of interest nearby: River Stream in Ura, Small Cave Spring in Kunigami, Iji Shrine and The Cherry Blossom Hill.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Small Cave Spring in Kunigami"

Upclose look at the small cave spring in Kunigami

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Small Cave Spring in Kunigami

     N 26 43.287E 128 09.649

Small Cave Spring in Kunigami

This is a little spring coming out of a tiny cave in Kunigami. It borders the Hanji and Kaganji District and is right off Highway 58. It is just a few kilometers south of the Okuma Recreational Facility and across from the Lawsons convenience store and tucked behind an apartment complex. This is small, but if you are intrigued by little wonders of nature then take a peek. Modern piping was done to help navigate the water flow from the cave. Nevertheless, it is still a nice hole in the wall. There is a sacred place for prayer at the spring. The pond and park in the front isn't as well kept. There appears to be some damage done from the summer typhoons. If you are staying at Okuma, then this might be another excuse to get out and see something else. There is also a nice river stream in Ura not too far north.

Other places of interest nearby: River Stream in Ura, Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center, Iji Shrine and The Cherry Blossom Hill.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Todoroki Waterfall in Nago City"

Todoroki Waterfall in Sukata District of Nago City

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Todoroki Waterfall in Nago

     N 26 33.766E 127 59.294

Todoroki Waterfall in Nago City

This is the "Todoroki-no-taki" or the Todoroki Waterfall in Nago City. It lies in the Sukata District just south of the Highway 329 and Highway 58 intersection. Not as well known as its sister waterfall in Hiji, the Todoroki Waterfall nevertheless still stands as an impressive art of nature. The word "Todoroki" in Japanese means to "roar" or "rumble". Without a doubt, you will feel the vibration of the thundering water as it hits the surface down below.

There is plenty of shade by the nearby trees and seats where you can enjoy the surrounding nature. You will see a small place where people pray from time to time. Please see photo album above. Though this is somewhat of a makeshift altar please show proper respect when around that area. There is also a trail that you will see to the left if you are facing the waterfall. Portions of the trail lead to a power line tower and another to a dead end. There is trail that goes further back away from the waterfall (destination unknown) . The trail is uneven, slippery, and sometimes steep - so use caution. Always be aware of critters and snakes. There was nothing I found that lead to the top of the waterfall. Use proper judgement for traversing the hillside on these trails should you decide to do so.

CAUTION. The boulders and rocks near the waterfall are slippery. Please use caution if you decide to get close to the bottom.

Video. Video footage of Todoroki after Heavy Rainfall (May 23, 2013/Rainy Season) - Click Here

Directions. One direct route is to take Highway 329 till you hit the Highway 58 Intersection. Turn left on 58 and turn left on the first traffic light. See map above. Make sure you then navigate your way to the south side of the stream (right side) as you are driving towards the waterfall.  

Parking/Amenities. Parking and toilet facilities are available.

What to Bring. Definitely a camera.

Other Places of Interest Nearby:  Ato no Utaki (Kyoda)Giant Shisas (Kyoda)Green Bridge/Lower Creek ParkWater From Hands (Kyoda), The Nangusuku Castle Ruins, Nago Museum

Other Waterfalls of Okinawa (沖 縄 滝). Azaka Falls, Fukugawa Falls, Hira Falls, Meoto Falls, Ogimi Waterfall, Taa Waterfall, Nameless Waterfall (Fukugawa II), Kijoka Falls, Nameless Waterfall (Kunigami)

Friday, October 14, 2011

"A Nice River Stream in Ura"

Looking upstream on a river in Ura.

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
A River Stream in Ura

     N 26 45.025E 128 11.702

A Nice River Stream in Ura

If you like the sound of nature, then this place will bring you a peace of mind. The above photograph was taken at a river stream in Ura of Kunigami Village. It is about a 10-15 minute drive north from the Okuma recreational facility along Highway 58. This is ideal if you are staying at Okuma for a few days and just want to venture off the reservation to see something new. The sound of the flowing river is therapeutic. There is a small picnic area with a shaded rest stop at the very end of the road (see photo album).  

One of the nice things you could do (and unfortunately I didn't at the time) is travel upstream along the stream itself. There may be some trails to the side, but the vegetation was very thick, so it was difficult to tell. It might be safer to travel in the water on foot. It wasn't too deep from what I could tell, and the water was nice and cool  (temperature will vary with the season and water levels will vary based on amount of precipitation at the time). I do plan on making a return trip to travel upstream.  The above picture was taken in October of 2011 and so the scenery may vary in the spring or summer with more vegetation. So it may be worthwhile to revisit it again during a different season.

Getting there. The river is about 10-15 minute drive north from the Okuma Recreational Facility along Highway 58. I posted a landmark of a building with 3 A-frame window frames. You can click on it to see what it looks like. You may want to do a Google 360 Zoom to see exactly where to turn off. It is not too difficult. You will eventually have to get on the right side (south side) of the river when you are going upstream. The road is improved and paved on that side and that is the only way you can get to the rest stop.

Parking. Parking is available at the rest stop. 

What to bring. Proper clothing depending on what you want to do, a camera, umbrella, bug repellant (optional), and water. There are no bathroom facilities there. Please pack out what you pack in.

Other places of interest nearby: Small Kunigami Cave Spring, Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center, Iji Shrine and The Cherry Blossom Hill.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Fukushuen Chinese Garden in Naha"

Waterfall at the Fukushuen Chinese Garden

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
The Fukushuen Chinese Garden

     N 26 13.088E 127 40.554

The Fukushuen Chinese Garden in Naha

This is the Fukushuen Chinese Garden in Naha. This is not far from where the annual Naha Tug-of-War takes place. In fact, the turn-off to get to the gardens from Highway 58 is at the intersection where the two west and east ropes meet. From here, the Fukushuen Garden is about 1km on the left hand side. You can park right across from the garden at Matsuyama Park (see green thumbtack). Unfortunately, they did not have any English translated brochures. They do have a loud speaker that narrates in several languages (to include English) that talks about the origin of this garden. There is also a faded English translated sign next to a model of the garden (to the left as you enter). Here are portions of the translation in verbatim. 

"The City of Naha and Fukusyu flourished  as a center of trading between the Ryukyu Kingdom and China. There were many Binjin people, who from China, migrated and lived in Kume Village. Naha City and Fukusyu City concluded the friendly relations agreement in 1981, May 20 to commemorate the historical relationship and to take a new start for Chinese and Japan. 

As a symbol of the relationship, the Fukusyu-en Garden was established in 1992 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the agreement between Naha and Fukusyu and the 70th Anniversary of municipalization of Naha as a city."

One of the interesting facts about the Fukushuen Garden is that the materials to build the garden came from Fukusyu City in China. This includes the stones and wood that you see in the garden. All the architectural  designs that you also see resembles that of Fukusyu City. Engineers from both Naha and Fukusyu worked on the garden as a joint project to ensure that style and architectural integrity were in keeping of that of the original City of Fukusyu.

Hours: Daily from 9am-6pm.
Cost: Free.
Phone Number: 098 869 5384 (Always best to call before you go).
Parking: You can park at the Matsuyama Park across from the garden. See green thumbtack above.
Other: Bathroom facilities are available inside. You can also feed the fishes in the garden pond. There is a coin machine (100 Yen) where you can buy the fish food. The fish kind expect you to feed them. You will know what I mean when you get close to the edge of the pond. Also, you can go behind the waterfall. There is a tunnel there. There are peep holes you can view the waterfall from behind too. However, make sure you brush away any spider webs before you look through the hole. I made that mistake.

Other places of interest nearby: Manko Waterbird & Wetland Center, Monument to Hibari Misora, Pineapple House Store, Sumiyoshi Shrine.

"Map It! Find It! - Kin Town's History Chronicles"

Kin Town's History Chronicles sold at the Kin Town City Office

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Map It! Find It! - Kin Town's History Chronicles

     N 26 27.368E 127 55.566

Map It! Find It! - Kin Town's History Chronicles

Every now and then, I will post a location where you can get a very rare or unique item. This post is for those interested in Okinawan history,... in particular Kin Town's history. At the Kin Town City Office, they sell four publications. The original volume was published in 1984 and cost 3500 Yen. Or you can get the more recent versions broken up into two volumes. What you see in the above picture are those two newer volumes, published in 2002 and 2006. The 2002 version covers the Okinawan War era, and the 2006 volume covers the Immigration era. Both these volumes cost 3000 Yen each. The fourth publication is a much smaller paperback edition that outlines all of Kin Town's documented wells and springs. It gives history and the name of each spring. Some springs documented are big, such as Okawa, while others may be a simple hole in the ground. The nice thing about this publication is that they give several contour maps to locate these wells and springs. They also show some old pictures of Kin Town. Some of these wells I will map over time,... once I can confirm the GPS coordinates. The magazine, unfortunately does not give out the GPS coordinates. This paperback edition cost 300 Yen Only.

Personally I cannot vouch for the content of the publication. It is written only in Japanese. However, if you are a 'History Enthusiast' then I am sure you will find a way to overcome the language barrier. Share it with a Okinawan, and they may be surprised too on what they will find. There are many Americans and foreigners (to include myself) that have an interest in Okinawa tradition and history. This post is for you all. 

Where to buy it. You can purchase these items at the Kin Town's City Office. See photo in the album. The town office is right next to the Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo. They only take Yen. When you walk in the double doors you will see a large booth to the left. Look at the corner of this booth and you will see those two volumes. The admin clerks may or may not speak English. That's okay! Here's a chance to practice your Japanese, or simply show the above picture on your smartphone, if you have one. Good Luck.

Phone Number: 098 968 2111. Best to call before you go.

Other places of interest nearbyKin Kannonji TempleO-kawaStatue of Oshiro KozoKin Watch TowerKin's Castle RockKinjo's Used GoodsKin Town's Hidden Nature TrailRichamocha CafeThe Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo, Birth Place of Toyoma Kyuzo, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"The Birth Place of Toyoma Kyuzo"

This Stone Monument marks the location where Toyoma Kyuzo was born. 

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Birth Place of Toyoma Kyuzo

     N 26 27.269E 127 55.844

The Birth Place of Toyoma Kyuzo

The previous post discussed the significant contribution of Toyoma Kyuzo and the impact he had on Okinawan emigration. This post is for the curious minded and history buffs in light of the 5th Uchinanchu World Festival . The above picture marks the birth place of Mr. Toyoma Kyuzo in Kin Town. The monument lies between two modern built houses. I gather his house has long since been demolished being that Mr. Kyuzo was born on November 9th, 1868.

Getting there. The best route to take is starting from the Family Mart off of Highway 329. From there you will go down a hill with a green paved road. You will see the Okawa Natural Spring to your left. Once you pass the spring, proceed straight ahead. You will see a two-story pink house. Go in that direction. Make a left hand turn on the intersection where the pink house is located. Next to this house is the monument. I added some landmarks to help you get there.

Reader's note: Not all icons of nearby areas in Kin Town will not be visible on the above map. For example, the thumbtack for Okawa, the natural spring, does not appear on this map. This is because Google Maps starts a new complete Map Page when a certain number of Icons have been marked. Don't worry! The other icons are still there. To see the other places of interest on the map, click the 'View Map It! Okinawa in a large Map' link and scroll down at the bottom where you see the Previous and Next Link. Also, you can click at the bottom of the post to see 'other places of interest nearby'. I have provided feedback to Google that they should show everything on the map.

Other places of interest nearbyKin Kannonji TempleO-kawaStatue of Oshiro KozoKin Watch TowerKin's Castle RockKinjo's Used GoodsKin Town's Hidden Nature TrailRichamocha Cafe, The Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo, Kin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

"Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo, The Father of Okinawan Emigration"

Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Statue of Toyoma Kyuzo

     N 26 27.368E 127 55.588

Toyoma Kyuzo, The Father of Okinawan Emigration

Tomorrow, October 12 2011, marks the beginning of the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival.  Every 5 years Okinawan descendants from all over the world return to Okinawa to celebrate their Okinawan heritage and ancestry.  For my 50th blog post, I only thought it would be fitting to talk about the man who would start it all. The man you see above is Toyoma Kyuzo and is regarded as the "Father of Okinawan Emigration". Mr. Toyoma was born in Kin Town, Okinawa on November 9th 1868. He would pave the way for the first immigrants to emigrate...destination...Hawaii. On December 5th, 1899, 26 Okinawans set out to sail from Naha Port and would arrive about a month later on January 8th 1900. The statue of Toyoma Kyuzo is seen with a globe to his left side and pointing with his right towards the direction of Hawaii.

Today, it is estimated that over 400,000 Okinawan descendants live throughout the world. In celebration of the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival, we honor our 50th blog post to Mr. Toyoma Kyuzo, a man with a vision, instrumental for passing on the Okinawan Spirit throughout the world.  

Source: 100 Year Chronology of Okinawan Emigration, Worldwide Uchinanchu Network, 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival Website. See also Oshiro Kozo (Emigration to the Philippines).

Getting there. The statue is not very far from Highway 329 and just a few hundred meters south of Gate 2, Camp Hansen. Use Google's 360 zoom to get an idea of the turn-off. The statue is right below the Kin Town Office. See the Landmarks on the map.

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, Richamocha Cafe, Birth Place of Toyoma KyuzoKin Town's History Chronicles, Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"The Mysterious 'Esu Shirube' Stone"

Inscription to the missing 'Esu Shirube Stone'

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
The Mysterious Esu Shirube Stone

     N 26 20.913E 127 50.123

The Mysterious 'Esu Shirube Stone'

Update: November 2, 2012. Last week the, Esu Shirube Stone was discovered. Overgrown vegetation in the immediate area was removed and the stone can now be seen. It is a small stone roughly 12 inches in height. Pictures were not taken due to inclement weather, but will be uploaded once available. A picture of another Shirube-like Stone surfaced in Nago City and its location is currently being researched. 

There are many sites I have found on Okinawa by accident. The 'Esu Shirube Stone' is no exception. Well... actually I didn't find the 'Esu Shirube Stone'...but maybe its former resting place. And the only reason I found it was because I was first attracted to an Utaki (sacred place of prayer) with a prominent tree in front of it (see photo album, last picture). To my chagrin, there was nothing describing or explaining the origin of this Utaki. Disappointed, I returned to my car. That's when I noticed some log steps leading up to a small elevated mound, and there it was...a two-foot tall stone inscription. But was this the stone itself? Or just an inscription of the actual 'Esu Shirube Stone'? I believe it to be the latter (there was another set of log steps leading behind the inscription and what seems to be remnants of a foundation). So where did this missing Stone go? I'm afraid I have more questions than answers about this historical relic. Hopefully someone out there reading this post may know the answer. 

But we do have some clues. For starters, Esu is a district in Uruma City. Second, the inscription left behind was half written in Japanese and the other half in English. The English heading clearly says 'Esu Shirube Stone'. However, due to years of erosion, portions of the translation were not legible. Below is the best I could make out and hopefully it will give us more clues. The pound sign '#' denotes characters that I could not decipher. 

Esu Shirube Stone 

The Shuri Government ####unded 2### - 300 Shirube Stones in each town of Okinawa during 1737 to 1750. Shirube Stones was a da #um## ### ##easure land in those days but nowadays ### of #hem has been disappeared. 

### Shirube Stones is one #### ### has been (rest was not legible). 

So couple of questions come into mind. 
Question 1. What exactly is the 'Esu Shirube Stone'? A Google Search (in English) gave me negligible results. I have asked various elders and locals about the word 'Shirube' and it was unknown to them. When I checked an online Japanese dictionary, It did list 'Shirube' as a 'family name'. However, the Kanji they used and the ones on the inscription did not seem to match. Furthermore, the word 'Shirube' was not written in Katakana which suggest it may not even be a Hogen word. 
Question 2. Where are the other stones? 
Question 3. Where exactly is the current Esu Shirube Stone? Obviously it must have been intentionally relocated. 

Question 3 should be relatively easy to find since I am sure all historical artifacts and locations that were given an inscription on location must also have been documented and filed at the City Office. However, as easy as that sounds, that too can be weeks or months of research. I am sure someone knows the answer. 

Your guess is good as mine on what the actual translation is supposed to say. It does spark some interest though. One word almost looks like it is supposed to be the word 'treasure'. The number of missing characters in the translation may not be accurate as well. It was difficult to tell if there was supposed to be a character or space in between. I posted this blog because I hope maybe someone out there knows something about this stone or has seen a similar stone in their area. Someone out there knows. Until then, this relic is another one for the Okinawa X-Files. 

Getting there. This location is close to the Highway 85 and 224 intersection and right across from the Make-Man hardware store (see land mark on the map). There is also a small tunnel along the 224. The 'Esu Shirube Stone' sits approximately over this tunnel.

What to bring. Your Curiosity.

Other places of interest nearby: An Intriguing Utaki in Maehara.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Agami Shrine in Ginoza"

Agami Shrine in Ginoza

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Agami Shrine in Ginoza

     N 26 28.598E 127 58.433

Agami Shrine in Ginoza

This is the Agami Shrine in Ginoza (also known as the Machougama Shrine). It is not too far away from Highway 329 and the Okinawa Expressway (Exit 9). To be honest, difficulties in the translation for this site had delayed early submission of this post. There were nuances that made it quite difficult at first. But after much discussion with various locals, I think the below translation best describes the origin of this shrine.
The Agami Shrine in Ginoza (Sokei District) (Shrine, Machougama Utaki)

The tree area surrounding the Agami Shrine in Sokei is believed to be where the  ancestors (Sokei or Ginoza?) first came from. Near this shrine, there were old houses and lots. With Agami hilltop in the center, new houses started to build apart from the old ones toward the shore. Long ago during a festival, a Noro (shamen), a female playing a role of a god dressed in white, would pray here for rich soil during harvest season.

During World War II, part of the 'spirit' from the Naminoue Shrine in Naha was taken and placed in the Agami Shrine in Sokei so Okinawans from that area could pray for safe return from the war*. Later, Agami Hilltop was designated as a shrine.  Agami Hilltop has the characteristics of Yanbaru (Northern area of Okinawa) with oak and old trees which is covered with abundance of greenery (woods).

(Sokei Journals) March, 2006. Village, Board of Education

*It is important to note that some Okinawan men were directed to fight for Japanese Army during World War II.

Some of the difficulties with the translation were related to the different contextual meanings of a word. For example, in the Japanese version of the inscription, they used the Kanji 'Yama', which to many foreigners is mostly understood as a 'mountain'. But 'Yama' could also mean 'peak' or 'hill'.  The Agami shrine is built on a hilltop and from there the elevation does decline to the shoreline. At first this is not obvious due to the surrounding buildings. But once we made the connection from 'Yama' to 'hilltop' the more and more it began to make sense. The above translation does lead to another question of religious protocol; How does a spirit or portions thereof go from one shrine to another? I am sure there is a ceremony of some sort. It is yet another item of a long list of items of Okinawa mysteries that I hope to solve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Nakandakari Hijya - A Natural Spring in Nanjo-shi"

Nakandakari Hijya, natural spring

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Nakandakari Hijya (Natural Spring)

     N 26 08.718E 127 47.567

Nakandakari Hijya - A Natural Spring in Nanjo-shi

This is the Nakandakari Hijya, or the Nakandakari Natural Spring. It's located in the town of Nakandakari, a small district in the Nanjo-shi region, which lies in the southern part of Okinawa. It serves as a water source for the local community. It is an old style spring with a heating stove affixed to the side to heat up water. There is also an sacred place for prayer next to the spring. Here is a paraphrase of the English translation provided by the Tamagusuku Village Board of Education: The spring was once called 'Ufugaa' and was just an old wooden gutter. It was later rebuilt by a builder from the Tsuken Island between 1912-1913. It was used by the community for all sorts of chores; washing, cleaning, rinsing vegetables etc. Today, it is mainly for agriculture use for the nearby locals and farmers. Unfortunately, the original spring construction was destroyed and subsequently buried during the Battle of Okinawa, but was later rebuilt to its original form in 2004 (end paraphrase). Note: There is a sign with both Japanese and English explaining the origin of this spring.

I had assistance in helping find this place by Doc and Ryukyu Mike. They found it first and had posted earlier articles about it. If it were me, I would have driven past this place never knowing it existed. It is about a 100 meters near the main road (Highway 137). There is a small park with a cabana-like structure where you can view the coast line and the Philippine Sea to the east.

Getting there. The spring is on Highway 137. Highway 331 runs into the 137 from the east side. I placed some landmarks to guide you in. Click on the Landmark Icon to see what they look like. The 'blue route' highlights how to get there once you turn off the 137.

CAUTION. The ground next to the spring is either made up of limestone or coral. It is VERY SLIPPERY when wet. Use caution especially if you are walking up the incline to get an angular photo shot.

Other areas of interest nearby. There are two castles that are not frequented by tourist but are very interesting. They are close to the 137 if you were to drive towards the west. I will 'Map' these castles some time this month, but just wanted to give you a heads up to the curious traveler if you wish to find them yourselves. To get a preview visit Mike's Ryukyu Gallery. He took some outstanding photos.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail"

A glimpse of Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Kin Town's Hidden Trail

     N 26 27.123E 127 55.410

Kin Town's Hidden Nature Trail 

If you ever driven through Kin Town you will see that it has a lot of good size buildings and houses on both sides of Highway 329. And you would probably never think to find a nature trail right smack in the middle of all those buildings. Well, guess again. I have lived in Kin Town for several years off and on and drove and walked by a particular section of this town so many times that it never occurred to me to scan my peripheral vision. This is common, since I think most of us tend to get tunnel vision walking from point A to point B. But every now and then you get a little surprise. If you look at the album cover you will see a picture of a road, a building, and a Coke machine. Nothing strange about that...until you look closely to the right of the soda machine.

Walking past this soda machine, it finally hit me that something seemed a little odd. There was an alley way that seemed to go no where. Then the map sign gave it away. It turns out, that the alley way does go somewhere. It's an entrance way to a nature trail that's very well hidden and tucked in within the town. The trail is only about 200-250 meters in total length, but it is a nice change of scenery. See the photo album. The trail is actually named 'Tiidagaa Forest' Park, which was written in Katankana and Kanji. Tiidagaa, I was told, is Hogen (Okinawan native language) that gives reference to the Sun and River.

As you go through the trail you will see wooden floor platforms for viewing, either for educational purposes or praying. Then there are three areas along the trail that have pools of water (almost just like a large puddle). On the sign, they were referred to as a 'well'. On the map (in the photo album), these 'wells' were identified by a 'blue' dot. This may be a small insignificant trail, but if you are really into hole-in-the-wall kinds of stuff then you may find it a small joy walking though this trail.

CAUTION. There was a lot of overgrowth on this trail. I recommend wearing pants and long sleeves, especially during certain times of the year. There were a lot of bugs... bugs I have never seen before. If you like bugs then this is the place to go. There were also a lot of mosquitoes. Again, depending on the time of the year, you may see a lot of them. Recommend, using a bug repellant. Wear gloves if you have them. I highly recommend not wearing any sandals either. Additionally bring an umbrella or a walking stick to help brush away possible spider webs and vegetation on the trail. I didn't see any snakes but it something always to be wary of. Don't let any of this scare you. I just wanted you to be prepared. I'm a big believer in 'trail maintenance'. When trails are not maintained, over time, they can disappear and become inaccessible and more importantly, they become unsafe. The more and more people use trails it prevents overgrowth.  

How to get there. If you look at the map, you will it is not far from Highway 329. You will see two landmarks where you turn off. Once you make the turn, it's only about 400-500 meters away where you will see that Coke Machine.
What to bring. Umbrella and/or walking stick, appropriate clothing, water, and a camera.