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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Kouri Ocean Tower

The Kouri Ocean Tower

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Kouri Ocean Tower

     N 26 42.004E 128 01.462

The Kouri Ocean Tower, Kouri-jima

On November 23, 2013, Kouri-jima debuted its new attraction, the Kouri Ocean Tower.(1) It sits prominently high overlooking the oceanfront and from up-top, you can see the very visible Kouri Bridge, the longest toll-free bridge in Japan – stretching to 1,960 meters.(2,3,4) There are other attractions within the tower compound to make your visit more enjoyable. Please see information below for more details.

Hours: 9am-6pm, Daily (Restaurant Hours, 10am-6pm)
Phone Number: 098 056 1616
Entrance Fee: Adults: 800 ¥, Junior and High School: 600 ¥, Elementary School Students: 300 ¥, Between Ages 0 and Elementary School Students: FREE. 15% Off for Group Rates (20 people minimum). Price subject to change.
Currency. Yen Only
English Language. Currently, there are no guide pamphlets in English. However, it appears in the near future they will have publications in the English, Chinese, and the Korean languages. There is a 5 minute audio-guided tour in English on the golf cart ride to the main entrance, as well as some signs translated in English inside the Shell Museum.

Entering The Facility (Please Read!). After you purchase your ticket you have two options to enter the main facility. You can either ride a golf cart (automated) that seats four people or walk on a circular ramp. Both will take you up to the Shell Museum. The golf cart ride offers a 5 minute audio-guided tour in English (also in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese). Here you will learn a little about the island's history and of the facility itself. For those using wheel chairs or plan on bringing baby strollers, you can waive the cart ride and use the walk-ramp instead.

The Shell Museum. Inside the exhibit, there are approximately 1,500 kinds of seashells with over 10,000 on display.(5) You will find both the Japanese and Latin names displayed next to each shell. There are some explanation signs along the walls that are written in English, Japanese, Korean, and in Chinese.

Cake Factory. Here you will find an assortment of locally-made pastry products, and are more than welcome to take food samples to your liking. In the corner, there is a viewing window to the factory where you can watch staff members work as they prepare pastry items for that day.

The Ocean Blue Restaurant. The compound does have a two-story restaurant with an outdoor patio where you can dine and enjoy the ocean view. Their feature menu items include Green Curry and their own in-house pizza. Price Range: Main course meals: 700-2300 ¥  per meal. Sweets: 350-420 ¥ per item. Drinks/Coffee: 420-525 ¥ per drink. *Prices subject to change. Hours: 10am-6pm.

The Ocean Tower. The main attraction is the tower. The top floor sits 36 meters (118 ft) above ground and 82 meters (269 ft) above sea level.(5) You will notice that the white tower is designed much like a sail belonging to a boat. Its designers wanted to represent the island in such a way combining the beauty of the Okinawan ocean and the scenic landscape. Few places on Okinawa can rival the scenic panoramic view from this location.

Amenities/Parking. Parking is free. Restrooms available. An elevator is available to access parts of the tower.

1. Official Website.
2. Okinawa2Go, Kouri-jima Bridge, website (English)
3. Okinawa Story (Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, OCVB), Kouri-jima Bridge, website (English)
4. Nakijin Village Official Website (Kouri-jima Bridge), Japanese Only
5. Audio Tour Guide produced by the Kouri Ocean Tower staff

Related Articles. Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: The Kouri Island Ocean Tower.

Direction. Kouri-jima is part of Nakijin Village. Take Highway 58 north to Highway 110. Highway 110 takes you across two islands, Oi-jima and Yagaji-jima. You will see signs directing you to Kouri-jima. At some point you will cross the Kouri Bridge to get to Kouri Island. The large white tower will be very visible from the bridge. As soon as you cross the bridge make the very first right. This will happen almost immediately. From there you will be able to easily navigate your way to the tower.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo

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Cape Manzamo

     N 26 30.282E 127 51.014

Cape Manzamo, Onna Village

One of the most recognizable tourist destinations on Okinawa is Cape Manzamo (or Manzamō). Facing the East China Sea, its most distinguishing feature is its elephant trunk-like coral snout. Hundreds and hundreds of sightseers visit Cape Manzamo daily just to get a memorable photo of this large, natural sculpture. The name Manzamo is said to originate from words expressed by King Sho Kei in 1726 during a visit. Admiring the view he notes it “was worth letting 10,000 people sit and enjoy the area”.(1) The kanji designation for Manzamo (万座毛) summarizes the king's expression. The first character 万(man) means 10,000, while the second character 座 (za) gives reference to a seat or to sit as in "za suru".

The Third Kanji. There is, however, an interesting peculiarity to Manzamo's third kanji character, 毛. Together with the first two characters it is pronounced as mou (mō). But alone, the kanji means hair and when said by itself, it is pronounced as "ke". So how does hair fit in the equation of the definition? According to the Uchina Joho website it explains that is an Okinawan word that means an open field and was once denoted with the kanji, 毛.(2) This would seem to coincide with King Sho Kei's earlier expression. It would imply then that at some point the definition changed to mean hair, but the character, 毛, remained as a legacy to its former meaning. The word is also found in the Okinawan-English Wordbook (2006). In the book it describes as a field that is not cultivated or a wilderness.(3)

Sunset Viewing. Manzamo is beautiful during the day but it is also a great place to view the sunset. Please visit Map It! Okinawa's article, Sunset! Manzamo, for more information.

Amenities/Parking. At the parking location you will find many gift shops. Parking is also free.

Other Places of Interest Nearby. The Cave of Dances – Uduigama, Onna Gusuku.

1) Onna Village Historical Publicaion, dtd March 2000, Pg 14
2) Uchina Joho Website (Manzamo)
3) Okinawan-English Wordbook, University Hawai'i Press 2006, Pg 119

Directions. To get to Cape Manzamo, you have to take Highway 58 into Onna-son (Onna Village). You will have to take the 58 By-pass (skirts the shore). Signs will be posted directing you 'Cape Manzamo' along the 58.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The peak of Mt. Katsuu

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     N 26 37.855E 127 56.346

       *GPS to starting point


Katsuu-dake, or Katsuu-yama, is one of the 'three sisters' of visible mountains that dominant the southeastern region of the Motobu Peninsula. The other being Yae-dake and Awa-dake; Katsuu being in the middle in regards to elevation. A forth, but less noticeable is Furushi-dake, which blends in just below Mt. Katsuu when viewed from a distance. Like many mountain ranges here on Okinawa, limestone dating back to the Mesozoic Era can be seen scattered throughout the terrain(1). The trail leading to the top of Mt. Katsuu is a relaxing 45 minute to an hour hike. If you love the outdoors and a place to enjoy the quiet serenity of nature, Mt. Katsuu will not disappoint you.

Katsuu Highlights.
-10 meter vertical cave-like drop midway along the trail. Roped off to mark danger area.
-Visible regions from the peak: Nago Bay, Yae-dake, Awa-dake, Furushi-dake, northwestern side of the Okinawan coastline.

Summary Information.
Name: Katsuu-dake (Katsuu-yama, Mt. Katsuu).
Elevation. 452 meters (1482.94 feet)(2)
Peak GPS Coordinate: N26 37.862 E127 56.105
Starting Point GPS Coordinate: GPS N26 37.855 E127 56.346
Estimated Time to Peak: 45minutes – 1 hour (one way)
Parking Area Area: Same as starting point.
Recommended Emergency Rendezvous Point: Same as starting point.

Recommended Guidelines (PLEASE READ!!!).
1. Age. Climbing is suitable for children (parental discretion on age) and adults who have good agility, mental awareness, and are physically fit.
2. Greatest dangers are tripping and falling. Wear shoes or boots that have good traction. Tennis shoes may be too slippery on some rock surfaces.
3. Tuck in all loose straps to include shoe laces to prevent getting snagged and tripping.
4. Highly recommend hiking gloves of some kind. You may be required to climb using your hands in some areas.
5. Base your clothing on the time of year and comfort level. For this particular trail there are no specifics for attire.
6. Bring plenty of water and nourishments.
7. Recommend a good hat for shade or cover up with a moist towel.
8. Bug repellent. Bring per your discretion.
9. Let someone know where you are going, and recommend a climbing buddy.

Notes/Source of Information
1. Limestone origin provided by a Nago City sign board.
2. Elevation taken from a Nago City sign board.

Directions/Parking. Take Highway 58 North and turn on to Highway 449 goings towards Motobu Town. About another 10 minutes later look for large street signs in English directing you to Mt. Katsuu. Parking will be at the very end of the route identified by the Green Thumbtack in the map.

Other Hiking Trails on OkinawaAwa-dakeFurushi-dakeMotobu Fuji, Yonaha-dake.