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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mount Yonaha

The trail to Mt. Yonaha

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Mount Yonaha (Yonaha-dake)

     N 26 43.919E 128 12.545
       *GPS to parking area

Mount Yonaha, Kunigami Village

The highest mountain on the Okinawa main island is in Kunigami Village. It is Mt. Yonaha (Yonaha-dake) standing at 503 meters above sea level.(1)(i) The hike is about a 2 to 2 1/2 hour trip to the top. The trail is well beaten down with a mild grade towards the peak. It is a very easy climb for those who wish to bring their children. The scenic view at the top, however, is essentially non-existent since dense vegetation surrounds the entire peak as well as much of the trail along the way.

The Highest Point. As of November 21, 2013 there was no official sign designating the highest point of the mountain (503 meters). There was, however, a sign marking 498 meters (near the top). With recent amenities added (improved parking area, a toilet facility, new signs etc.), there is indication in the near future that the Kunigami Village Office may officially mark the highest point for tourism purposes.

So Where is the Highest Point? It is believed that the 503 meter point is the hill just before you reach the 498 meter marker. In fact you pass it without realizing it. As of November 21, 2013 there was a small tree right along the trail with three rings of red tape around it and the number 503 marked on it. The GPS of that location does seem to match the Google terrain map as the highest point, but this still remains unofficial till the Kunigami Village Office formally places the marker.

Summary of Information.
Name: Mt Yonaha, Yonaha-dake (与那覇岳)
Elevation of Highest Point: 503 Meters (1650.26 ft)
GPS Highest Point (503 Meters): N26 43.029 E128 13.118 (unconfirmed)
GPS 498 Meter Point: N26 42.974 E128 13.085
GPS Starting Point: N26 43.925 E128 12.546
Parking Area: 100 meters from the trail starting point
Estimated Time of Completion: Round Trip 4-5 hours
GPS Recommended Emergency Rendezvous Point: Same as parking area
Difficulty Level: Very Low.
Parking and Toilet Facility: Available near the trail starting point
Cellphone Reception. Signal received at the top (Au phone)

Recommended Guidelines. (PLEASE READ!!!)
1. Age. Climbing is suitable for young adults as well as children. The path is well beaten but there are areas where you can trip on tree roots and cut yourself on low lying branches, particularly broken bamboo. You may also find areas where trees have fallen along the path that you may have to negotiate. Parents must use their discretion on the ability of their children. Children must avoid running or playing along the trail. A good trip and you'll risk a good cut to the facial area.
2. Wear shoes or boots that have good traction. Tennis shoes should be okay.
3. IMPORTANT!!! Bring plenty of water. This is about a 4-5 hour excursion. Recommend bringing snacks or a light lunch. Pack out what you pack in.
4. Tuck in all loose straps to include shoe laces to prevent getting snagged and tripping.
5. Highly recommend hiking gloves of some kind. You may be required to climb using your hands in some areas to include fallen trees.
6. Base your clothing on the time of year and comfort level.
7. Bug repellent. Bring per your discretion. Mosquitoes are more prevalent in the hotter months.
8. Let someone know where you are going, and recommend a climbing buddy.
9. This is a wildlife protected area. Please do not take anything out of the forest; this includes plant life.

i. The highest mountain in Okinawa Prefecture is Mt. Omote in Ishigaki Island at 526 meters(2)

1. Mt. Yonaha, Highest Mountain on Okinawa main island,
2. Mt. Omote, the highest in mountain in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan National Tourism Organization

Directions. Take Highway 58 north to Kunigami Village. There will be a sign directing you to Hiji Falls (near the Family Mart). Take this same road. About 250 meters you will then turn left on the second paved road. You may see this sign on the left-hand sign. About 250 meters you will run into a main road (this sign will be to your front). Going left takes you to an elementary school. You will want to go right. Immediately, you will be moving up hill. Follow this road straight. About 5km (3 miles) later you will run into a T-intersection. You will see a Peace Pole to your front and a parking area to the right. You will also see a explanation sign about Mt. Yonoha. The beginning of the trail is about another 150 meters to the east. The vehicle route to the parking area is marked in blue in the map above.

Other Hiking Trails on Okinawa. Awa-dakeKatsuu-dakeFurushi-dake, Motobu Fuji.

Other Places of Interest Nearby. The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum

The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum

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The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum

     N 26 44.002E 128 11.427

The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum, Kunigami Village

On November 2, 2013, a very small art museum debuted in Hentona of Kunigami Village. This is no ordinary museum, however. Here, you can play with the artwork. It is the Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum and the artwork, of course, are the toys...all made from natural wood. The theme...introducing nature using a language that all children can understand; the language of 'play'.

All the toys are made of wood from trees found here in Japan. Since the museum is in Okinawa however, some toys are composed of wood from the Ryukyu Pine, trees native to the Okinawa islands.(1)(2)(3) The Ryukyu Pine is also Okinawa's prefectural tree, thereby making the pine very special. Hence, the material used for these toys only come from damaged trees, such as those destroyed during typhoons.(1,2,4) The museum is quite small, only occupying about 144 square meters (1600 square feet), and perhaps for good reason; any larger, you may find yourself out breath as you try to keep up with your children bouncing from one end to the other. To get a video preview inside the museum, click here

The museum is sponsored and organized by the Good Toy Association, a non-profit organization based in Mainland, Japan. They direct other natural toy museums throughout country. Their website is (click here for the sublink to the Okinawan museum).

Sai On Matsu, a Link to the Past. In Japanese, the Ryukyu Pine is pronounced as Ryukyu Matsu; matsu (松) meaning pine. Some Okinawans, however, may use the term shima matsu (island pine) to describe this type of tree. There is another name that is seldom used these days. It is the term Sai On Matsu (蔡温松).(5)  Sai On is actually a name belonging to a very famous political figure and scholar (1682-1763) during the reign of King Sho Kei (1713-1751).(6) In fact, he was one of the members belonging to the Council of Three (Sanshinkan, 三司官) that served as regents for the royal crown.(7) Sai On made many contributions with academic and scholarly writings ranging from personal conduct and behavior to policies governing land management. His writings and studies on forestry conservation would form the bulk of an 8 volume publication, Rinsei Hassho, (Eight Writings on Forestry Management) which was published posthumously in 1885, almost a century later.(6)(i) To many, he is considered the father of Okinawa's forestry conservation movement. The museum in many ways is a continuation of Sai On's work.

The term Sai On Matsu does not seem to describe just one pine tree, but a group of trees planted in a methodical or densely populated fashion; for example, trees planted along side a major road or on a tiny pocket of land such as a small forest.(ii) In Hedo of Kunigami Village, near the Tomb of King Gihon, there is a forest area named the Sai On Pine Tree Preservation Park, a name which gives tribute to the highly acclaimed scholar. 

The Kunigami Forest Park. The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum is part of the Kunigami Forest Park. There you will find a network of trails and view points that highlight the beauty of the Kunigami forest.

Recommendations (Please Read Before You Go!). Because the toy museum is rather small (144 square meters), you may not want to make this your primary destination if you live 2 hours away. If you are however, in the neighborhood and looking for a 30 minute timeout with the kids or plan on staying at the Okuma Recreational Facility then this may be a good option for you. Please avoid if your children are sick or have a cold.

Name (English). The Yanbaru Forest Toy Museum
Name (Japanese). Yanbaru Mori Omocha Bijyutsukan (やんばる森おもちゃ美術館)
Entrance Fee. Free till April 2014. Prices have not been determine yet.
Hours. 10am-4pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Phone Number. 098 041 5421
Sponsor. The Good Toy Association
Sponsor Website.
Video. A Map It! Okinawa Video Short

1. Good Toy Organization (Sponsor)
2. Blog Article - Wall Street Journal 
3. Native Okinawan Village and Omoro Arboretum (Ryukyu Pine)
4. Okinawa's Prefectural Website
5. Ryukyu Cultural Archives Website, Sai On Matsu (Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education)
6. Sai On reference. Ryukyu: Bibliographical Guide to Okinawan Studies, Dr. Shunzo Sakamaki, University Hawaii Press 1963 Pg 49.
7. Sanshinkan meaning. Okinawa: History of an Island People, George Kerr, Revised Edition 2000, Tuttle Publishing, pg 123

i. Sai On originally wrote 7 volumes regarding forestry and conservation. An 8th publication, the Onsashizu Hikae (Copy of Instructions), was added in 1885, by the prefectural government. (6)
ii. A Okinawan view of the word forest may be different of that of a western viewpoint. Mui is the Okinwan word for forest and it could be a small pocket of densely populated trees and not necessarily acres and acres of land.  

Directions. Take Highway 58 north into Kunigami Village. You will continue on Highway 58 passing the turn-off that takes you to Hiji Falls. Look for a highway sign that says Forest Park just before you reach the Hentona Tunnel. There you will make a right turn (if heading north on Highway 58). As soon as you make the right turn immediately look for a wooden sign directing you to the Kunigami Forest Park. At the sign, make a left and continue to follow that road directly in the forest park. LandMark images have been added to the map.