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Friday, February 22, 2013

"Shizen Sekitei, The Natural Stone Garden"

A large Buddha sits near the front entrance of the Natural Stone Garden in Motobu


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Shizen Sekitei, The Natural Stone Garden

     GPS
     LatitudeLongitude
     N 26 38.775E 127 56.852




Shizen Sekitei, The Natural Stone Garden 自然石庭


You never know what hidden gems are tucked away in the far corners of the Motobu forest. In the town of Izumi near Highway 84 there is a hilltop... and at the base of hill are stairs made of natural rock leading you into a garden...a garden filled with large stones and precious greenery. Welcome to Izumi's Shizen Sekitei, the Natural Stone Garden (自然石庭) of Motobu. 

The entire land belongs to an elder couple, Mr. and Mrs. Tokeshi-san, who are now the 4th generation residents of this very beautiful place. In fact, this is their home. Though they do have family in parts of California, they speak very, very little English, but they are one of the sweetest people you will ever meet on the island. If you are looking for a place just to absorb the serenity and quietness of nature, then let your journey begin here.

Points of Interest. The garden itself is full of large stones that naturally seem to sprout from the ground. But there are few points of interest to take note of.

Large Buddha Statue. At the base of the hill before you enter the garden, you will find a large and happy Buddha statue sitting next to a clump of large bamboos. He will be very hard to miss. Some come here to make their wishes known to the Happy Buddha (you may see a deposit of Yen coins near the base of the statue, a custom similarly seen at shrines as people offer their prayers to a spiritual entity).
The Indigo Dye Basins. Across of from the Buddha statue along a small creek bed, you will see a set of large stone basins embedded into the ground. It was here about a 100 years ago a combination of water and various plants were mixed together for a period of about 3 days. This fermenting process was used to make indigo dye for kimonos or kimono-like garbs. It was also said that children long ago would use it as a little swimming pool.
Kodakara-ishi, The Fertility Stone. Kodakara-ishi (子宝石) loosely translates to a 'Child (a form of jewel) Stone'. Mrs. Tokeshi told of a story that a woman who could not bare children for 12 years once touched the stone and had subsequently become pregnant. 
The Ginkgo Tree. The Ginkgo Trees are very popular in Japan and in Japanese culture, but they are seldom found here on the main island of Okinawa. At the top, near the house stands a prominent and very large Ginkgo Tree. It is said to be a male tree brought here from Mainland Japan in May of 1960 and planted as a seedling. The leaves begin sprouting in April and fall off during the fall/winter season. Another verified location of a Gingko Tree is in the town of Oura of Nago City near the Oura-wan Bay.
The Taiko Rock. As you navigate through the garden you will find a little station near the top. You will see two red circles painted on a slate of rock. If you gently hit this area with the padded hammer provided, it will mimic a sound of a taiko drum.
Cherry Trees. There are also a good number of Cherry Trees at the garden and during blossom season they add a nice touch to the scenery. You will see pictures of past blooming Cherry Trees posted near the front entrance of the house.

Admissions Fee. Paying for admissions is based on the honor system. It is a simple deposit of 100 Yen per person. Elementary students and below are free. The money box (blue box) in front of the house up top.

Hours. Because this garden is on private land and is still considered a home, there are really no set hours. But a good rule of thumb would be between 9am and sunset. Just remember this is still considered a residence.

Caution. The stone garden, though beautiful, does have several hazards to be wary about. With light moisture, the rocks can be very slippery at times and there are many trip hazards as you go up further into the hill side. Please watch your children at all times. 

Amenities. There is a small toilet facility near the house. The area is not particularly baby stroller friendly.

Seseragi Cafe. Just before the entrance of the stone garden there is the Seseragi (せせらぎ) Cafe . Their hours are 1130-5pm with last order at 430pm. (We did not get a chance to use the cafe, so no input can be provided at this time).

Directions/Parking. From Highway 58, take Highway 84 going towards Motobu. You will see signs for Highway 123. Continue on Highway 84 passing the Highway 123/Highway 84 T-intersection. Shortly after, you will pass an ENEOS gas station (on the right). The next light (shortly after the gas station) make a left. You will also see an Orange-Fruit-like structure near this turn. Continue straight until you hit the first 4-way intersection (about 250 meters later, no signal). Make a left. About another 300 meters you will see an open parking lot on the left with a two story house and a cafe on the first floor. You will see a small bridge with stone stairs leading you up a hill. The Buddha statue will be next to the cafe. Note: The Green Route takes you to the Yohena Ajisai Gardens (Hydrangea Flower Viewing/Seasonal Mid May to end of June). The Blue Route takes you to the Natural Stone Garden.

Source of Information. Large Indigo-dye Basin: Sign in Japanese, Interview with Mrs. Tokeshi.