Search Map It! Okinawa

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"The Goddess Sunset at Nago City"

The Goddess Sunset at Nago City

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
The Goddess Sunset at Nago City

     N 26 34.983E 127 59.333

The Goddess Sunset at Nago City

It's normal tradition among friends and love ones to see the very First Sunrise of the New Year. But what about the very Last Sunset of the closing year? There are many places on Okinawa to view the beautiful Okinawa sunset, but Nago City host one of the most beautiful sunset viewing locations on the island. This brings us back to the same location of the statue known as The Goddess of Mercy – Hence the title, The Goddess Sunset*. The location is picture perfect in many ways; the right angle and elevation, the calm reflecting waters below, and the sitting Bodhisattva that evenly splits the Nago Bay. Regardless if it's New Year's Eve or not, at anytime of the year the sunset here leaves you with a sense of amazement and peace. This is Map It! Okinawa's 2011 Sunset of the Year. 

What to bring: A peace of mind...and your camera. For Directions & Parking: See post on Kannon-sama, Goddess of Mercy.

Other places of interest nearby: Ato no Utaki (Kyoda), Big Okinawan House, Scenic View Mount Tanodake,Giant Shisas (Kyoda), Green Bridge/Lower Creek Park, Haneji Dam Family Picnic Area, Mikaya Dam, Nago Museum,Nangusuku Castle Ruins, Route 18/Haneji Dam Route, Todoroki Waterfall (Sukata), Water From Hands (Kyoda)Kannon-sama, Goddess of Mercy.

*The name was created by the author of this post to describe the event and location. It is not an official title. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Kannon-sama, The Goddess of Mercy – Nago City"

Kannon-sama, Goddess of Mercy sitting in front of Cherry Blossom Trees - Nago City

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Kannon-sama, Goddess of Mercy

     N 26 34.983E 127 59.333

Kannon-sama, The Goddess of Mercy – Nago City

The statue you see above is a Bodhisattva referred to in Japanese as Kannon or Kannon-sama, also known as the 'Goddess of Mercy'. She is referred to by many different names in different languages and has taken both male and female forms depending on the folklore and legend. There are many such statues of this Bodhisattva that exist of much, much greater size and magnitude in other East Asian countries, to include Mainland Japan. This one, in Nago City, is a modest size of about 15-16 feet in height. Nevertheless, the scenery itself is a trifecta of sorts. First, the Bodhisattva is surrounded by Nago's greenery of trees and mountains. And then there is the Cherry Blossoms behind the statue strategically laid out on a hill top making this an ideal spot for your photographic moment during blooming season. And finally, the statue overlooks a very calm and beautiful view of the Nago Bay.

The Poem. Next to the statue lies a stone inscription of a poem in Japanese, written by a person with the  family name Yokoyama. (The Kanji of the first name could not be accurately determined). Translated, it reads: 

     “Those who won and those who lost are now gone, and the Okinawa ocean is now calm.

Behind the stone inscription it says: “Those who chant the poem will be touched by the truth. By understanding the poem it will awaken the good in your heart. And by understanding the poem you will be inspired by its beauty.

The interpretation of the poem, of course, is left open for discussion. But being that this is the 'Goddess of Mercy', the message is certain to be one of peace.

Getting there. The location is south of the Orion Beer Factory on a hilltop. There are several ways to get there. You can either take Highway 58 and approach it from the west or approach it from the east on Highway 18. Please see map above for recommended entry (blue route). Depending on which highway you use, the turn-off will either be the very last turn-off to the right before you go up the Nago Green Bridge or the very first turn-off to the left as you are coming down the Nago Green Bridge.

Parking. If this is your first time attending this location, I recommend parking at the base of the hill and walking up, especially during Cherry Blossom season. At some point the road is only wide enough for one vehicle and 3-point turns are difficult. It is not too difficult of a walk from the bottom. Possible parking spots have been plotted above. The Pink Thumbtack icon marks another entrance way to the statue location from Highway 18, but it is easy to miss. It can also be used to exit onto Highway 18 as you leave the statue area.

Caution. If you notice on the map there is another route branching off that goes further south roughly paralleling Highway 18. Be advise that tremendous road damage existed on this route when last visited in early December 2011. Warning signs have been place. Do not go past these signs. The roads were severely damaged due to an eroding hillside.

Other places of interest nearby: Ato no Utaki (Kyoda), Big Okinawan House, Scenic View Mount Tanodake,Giant Shisas (Kyoda), Green Bridge/Lower Creek Park, Haneji Dam Family Picnic Area, Mikaya Dam, Nago Museum,Nangusuku Castle Ruins, Route 18/Haneji Dam Route, Todoroki Waterfall (Sukata), Water From Hands (Kyoda).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Sunset! Zakimi-jo"

Sunset at Zakimi-jo

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Sunset! Zakimi-jo

     N 26 24.481E 127 44.520

Sunset at Zakimi-jo Castle

When the engineers built telecommunication towers and power lines near Zakimi-jo Castle, they probably didn't have the view of the sunset in mind. It didn't stop this couple, however, from capturing a commanding view of the Okinawa sunset. Like most castles and fortresses on Okinawa, Zakimi-jo sits upon at high elevation, good enough to get a good view of both the ocean horizon and the sun as it descends down in a blaze of fire.

If you don't mind a few man-made obstacles in the way and wish to spend some sentimental time watching one of the small joys of nature, then this is an ideal spot. And if you are lucky enough, maybe you too will have an unsuspecting photographer capturing your Kodak moment. This is Sunset at Zakimi-jo.

Getting there. Zakimi-jo is in Yomitan Village. If you take Highway 58 (north or south), get on Highway 12. Look for road signs that point to Zakimi-jo Castle.

Other places of interest nearby: Yomitan's Tucked Away Nature Trail.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Manko Waterbird & Wetland Center"

Grey Heron at the Manko Wetlands (About 300m from the Center)

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Manko Waterbird and Wetland Center

     N 26 11.638E 127 40.915

Manko Waterbird & Wetland Center

This is the Manko Waterbird and Wetland Center of Tomigusuku City just outside the borders of Naha. It's not too far from the very visible Toyomi Ohashi Bridge often seen to the east as you are driving down Highway 58. Because of its significance as a stopover point during the winter season for various migratory birds, the Manko Wetlands became a registered wetland area under the Ramsar Convention in May 1999 (Ramsar site no. 996). Inside the center you will see various picturesbird displays, and information on the various birds often seen in the Manko Wetlands. On the second deck, there are birding scopes so you can get a glimpse of some of the wildlife that take refuge there. Just outside the center there is a man-made boardwalk that takes you to an outdoor observation post.

For the most part the center is a very English friendly place. They have a well done English pamphlet that talks about the various wildlife seen there and the history behind the Manko Wetlands. Make sure you grab one of these pamphlets. The pamphlets are located at the sign-in booth as soon as you walk in. If they don't have one, then be sure to ask for one. Also inside the pamphlet is a field map of other observation areas surrounding wetlands. And please don't forget to sign in. There is no entrance fee to go inside, but your name and where you come are important to keeping the place open.

In the photo album you will see some of the various birds just taken in one hour's time: Osprey, Grey Heron, Japanese White-eye, Common Redshank, and the Little Egret. The captions in the photo album will have the scientific name. To see other wildlife in action at the Manko Wetlands visit Mike's Ryukyu Gallery.

Getting there. Getting there is not difficult, however the turn-off can often be missed cause one of the street signs is blocked by a group of trees. Please look at the map and study the landmark and the blue designated vehicle route. Entrance to the wetland center is the very first left as soon as you commence on the road designated by the blue route. It is a 'J' hook turn to the left.

Open: 9am-5pm daily except Mondays, the next day after a holiday, and during Dec 29-Jan 3
Phone Number: 098-840-5121
Website: (Japanese Only)
Entrance Fee : Free

They ask you to call in advance for groups of 15 or more.

Other birding areas on Okinawa: Birding Observation Point (Awase).

Other places of interest nearby: Fukushuen Chinese Garden, Monument to Hibari Misora, Pineapple House Store, Sumiyoshi Shrine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way"

Cherry Blossoms in Kin Town

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way

     N 26 27.729E 127 55.934

Kin Town's Cherry Blossom Way

Normally not recognized for its Cherry Blossoms, Kin Town does have its own little tucked away corridor of Cherry Blossom trees. It sits beneath the Kin Town Bridge often unnoticed by the daily traffickers that skirt north and south along Highway 329. What you see above are the trees in their non-blooming season, but during full bloom this can be quite the photographic spectacle given the small ground it covers compared to some of the more popular locations like Mount Yaedake. Currently, in the background you will see the construction of the new Kin Dam. Though not an ideal scene yet for a panoramic photograph, but with a little imagination, good use of angles, and some cropping you will still be able to capture the photographic and natural beauty of these small wonders of nature. In a few years time, the completed Kin Dam will be a wonderful addition to the blend of Cherry Trees in the foreground. 

What to bring. Definitely a camera. If you are into photography, recommend you bring a step ladder or better in order to get a better vantage point. A little higher elevation can make a tremendous difference in your angle perspective and thus automatically crop out unnecessary obstacles that might be in a the way (i.e. overgrown vegetation).

Cherry Blossom Season: January-February time frame, pending climate conditions. 

Getting there. The location is just north of Camp Hansen. It is the first turn-off to the left heading north once you pass the Highway 104 and 329 intersection. The turnoff is immediately before the Kin Town Bridge.  

(Note: Photos of the full bloom will be added to the album once blooming season starts.)

Other places of interest nearby: Birth Place of Toyoma Kyuzo, Gold Hall, Kin Kannonji Temple, Kin Watch Tower, Kin's Castle Rock , Kinjo's Used Goods, Kin's Hidden Nature Trail, Kin Town's History Chronicles, Okawa, The Natural Spring, Oshiro Kozo Statue, Richamocha Cafe, Toyoma Kyuzo Statue.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"A Tribute to Hibari Misora - Gajyanbira Park, Naha City"

A monument in tribute to Hibari Misora at Gajyanbira Park. Naha Port in the back.

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
A Tribute to Hibari Misora at Gajyanbira Park, Naha

     N 26 12.280E 127 39.972

A Tribute to Hibari Misora - Gajyanbira Park, Naha City

The aftermath of World War II left many in agony from all sides and left many to question the future of world peace. Okinawa had suffered the many horrors of war first hand on its own soil. And at a uncertain time in an uncertain future, uplift was desperately needed. One voice would emerge to bring sunlight to the darkest corner of the earth, She is perhaps Japan's most famous singer and she is given tribute here at Gajyanbira Park in Naha City. She is Hibari Misora. 

Born in 1937, she began her singing career at the age of 9 in 1946 just after the war. It was through her captivating voice that gave inspiration and hope to the many Japanese and Okinawans during their most darkest days. She had sang over 1500 songs in her career. But there was one song she sang that gave tribute to the people of Okinawa in their struggle to find solace and inner peace in the aftermath of the 'Great Okinawan War'. The song is titled "Hanakaze no Minato" and is loosely translated as "The Port of Flowers in the Wind". As token of their appreciation Okinawans dedicated this monument in her name and placed portions of the lyrics of this song on a large stone, and if you stand at the right place you will hear this song being played. Just look for a set of yellow footsteps, just a short distance from this stone and let the electronic 'magic' do the rest. The location too couldn't be more fitting. It sits above on a ridge overlooking Naha Port. On a clear day with great blue skies the scenery is exquisite.  

Sadly, Hibari Misora's life and a career was short lived. She had died at the young age of 52 in 1989. Though gone, she is not forgotten and rests in the hearts of many Japanese and Okinawans to this day. To learn more about her life and career please visit the Official Website both in Japanese and in English at To hear portions of the song, "Hanakaze no Minato", please visit this YouTube Site*. 

Other places of interest nearby: Sumiyoshi Shrine of Naha City, Pineapple House in Naha City, Manko Waterbird & Wetland Center, Fukushuen Chinese Garden.

*Reader's note: It is not certain if the voice of this particular YouTube clip belongs to Hibari Misora.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Sumiyoshi Shrine in Yamashita, Naha City"

Sumiyoshi Shrine of Yamashita, Naha City

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Sumiyoshi Shrine of Yamashita, Naha City

     N 26 12.237E 127 40.029

Sumiyoshi Shrine in Yamashita, Naha City

This is the Sumiyoshi Shrine of Yamashita in Naha City. It's a small beautiful shrine decorated in bright orange that rests on a ridge-side near the Naha Port. Poor legibility and difficulties with some of the advance Kanji on the shrine's stone marker made it difficult for an accurate explanation of its origin. Further research is required and will update the post accordingly. There are a couple of shrines named Sumiyoshi in mainland Japan, and thus there could be a possible connection. What is known is that the shrine gives homage to 8 important figures. Some were to gods and some were of people. As you can tell from the picture above, there are 8 stone placards marking the names of a god or person. Some of the gods were those that represented the Dragon, Fire, and Land. Some of the other placards had suffixes that gave reference to a person, but the Kanji names could not be easily deciphered. This is a small simple shrine, but it does blend in with the natural beauty with the ridge-side greenery and because it is less visited, you may find a more sense of tranquility and peace than you would at some of your more high profile shrines on Okinawa.

Caution. Once you are at the main shrine area you will see an extra set of steps leading upwards into the hillside. This eventually takes you to a trail that leads you to the very top of the ridge. However, in order to get to the top you have to climb a muddy and slippery slope. There is (was?) a makeshift rope to help you climb. However, I highly recommend you don't climb it. The slope is very slippery, the rope is severely worn, and there are some rocks you can hurt your knee on. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO GET THERE BY CAR. At the top is Gajyanbira Park. Scroll to the left on the map above and you will see a vehicle route to get to it. At the edge of Gajyanbira Park, you will find a monument giving tribute to perhaps one of Japan's most famous singers. Her name is Hibari Misora

Getting there. It is not too difficult to get the shrine, however, if you are not alert you will miss the turn-off completely. The only practical way to get there is by going on the southbound lane of the 331. As you just hit the Onoyama Park/Dome you will notice that the 331 splits into two. The right lane takes you on the 331 By-Pass on-ramp and the left most lane is the main 331 that skirts the Yamashita District. DO NOT GO ON THE ON-RAMP. STAY IN THE LEFT MOST LANE. Continue straight. You will pass one major intersection (Highway 7). As soon as you pass this you will see an ENEOS gas station to your left. Turn left as soon as you pass this gas station. The left turn is immediately after the gas station. See the blue designated route. Park near the lower park. You will a set of bright orange stair rails. That will lead you to the shrine.

Other places of interest nearby: Tribute Monument to Hibari Misora, Pineapple House of Naha City, Manko Waterbird & Wetland Center, Fukushuen Chinese Garden.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Iji Shrine and The Cherry Blossom Hill"

Iji Shrine and the Cherry Blossom hill behind it.

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
Iji Shrine & The Cherry Blossom Hill

     N 26 45.479E 128 11.542

Iji Shrine and The Cherry Blossom Hill

Mark your calendar! Cherry Blossom season is just around the corner and with the season so short, it's a good idea to plan ahead to where you want to go and see these beautiful flowers. What's obviously missing in the picture above are the blooming Cherry Blossoms. That's because this photo was taken around October with the anticipation of coming back during the January/February blooming season (photos of the full bloom will be added to the photo album later). The picture is of Iji Shrine located in Kunagami Village, just north of the Okuma Recreational Facility. Behind the shrine is a large hill populated with Cherry Blossom trees. Though this is not Nago or Mount Yaedake, the backdrop of Cherry Blossoms still make for a beautiful scene. The god enshrined here is called 'Uji Kama-sama', with 'kama-sama' given reference to a god. There is a large stone with a poetic inscription by a poet named Toguchi Seisho. The poem compares the beauty of the Cherry Blossom to that of the people of Iji. 

Getting there. The location is not too far north of the Okuma Recreational Facility. Look at the map for the landmark. It is far enough to the south to give you an early warning. Once you pass the the landmark you make a right (if going north) on the second turn. This will take you into the Iji village. From there you will have to navigate your way north/northeast. Roads are tight in this neighborhood.

Parking. There is a small parking lot, but during Cherry Blossom season finding a close-by parking spot may be difficult and you may have to park further out. In fact, this may be a good idea. The roads are tight and exiting the place might be more difficult the closer you park near the shrine. And by walking, you will get to see the town as a whole and hopefully meet some of the locals along the way. A "Konichi wa" (good afternoon in Japanese) with a smile goes a long way in Okinawa. Even if you park near the 58, the walking distance shouldn't be too challenging. You also may be tempted to take a side route into the mountains as your escape. During the last visit, there was a unexpected dead-end though it does not show on the map. The roads going up are somewhat steep and most times large enough for one vehicle. Highly discourage any such spontaneous vehicle excursions here in Iji during the Cherry Blossom season. Good advice is to leave the same way you came out.

Other places of interest nearby: River Stream in Ura, Small Cave Spring in Kunigami, Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center.