Sogen-ji Temple Ruins in Okinawa

Recently, I came upon a rather interesting place in Naha, just above the north side of Kokusai-dori 国際通り. It seemed like mysterious entrance gates from the outside… so I decided to look further. It is on the site of a public park, Sogen-ji park.

Sogen-ji 崇元寺 (perhaps also written as Sohgenji, Sogenji, or Sougenji) was a Buddhist temple and royal mausoleum during the Ryukyu kingdom era, built during the reign of King Sho Shin in the 15th century, but unfortunately like many other important landmarks it fell victim to the ravages of the Battle of Okinawa (WWII) and was destroyed.

You can see in the picture some info about “dismounting tablets.” Apparently stone tablets with instructions for anyone entering the temple grounds (including the king himself) had to dismount to enter the temple on foot out of respect for previous rulers. On the temple grounds, stone gates, foundations, and walls are pretty much all the remain. Of the two stone tablets set outside on either side of the gates to warn visitors to dismount, only one is still remaining.

Though the royal memorial tablets were enshrined in Sogen-ji for many centuries, the actual royal remains were entombed in the Tama-udun mausoleum, just a short distance from Shuri-jo (castle). Spirit tablet of three royalties were placed here: Sho Shoku (尚 稷), father of King Sho En; Sho Kyu (尚 久), father of King Sho Ho; and Sho I (尚 懿), father of King Sho Nei.

This spot has an interesting history, and within the ruins is sort of a spiritual feeling. This is likely contributed by the large “Gajumaru” (banyan tree) ガジュマル, that it is said the Kijimuna (tree spirits) キジムナー live. Some people burn incense and pray under these types of trees, which you can see at this location as well… just take a peek where there is a small altar nestled among the branches. Overall, it is not a very large area, but if you are near Kokusai-dori, it is an interesting and peaceful yet quick stop to check out.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/5u2onsANt422

Hyakuna Beach and Nanjo Cultural Properties

Nanjo 南城 meaning “southern castle” is unsurprisingly located in the southern area of the island. In Nanjo, there are many cultural and historical properties, most famously, perhaps, the Seifa Utaki 斎場御嶽 (also spelled Sefa Utaki).

**utaki 御嶽 is a Ryukyuan term for “sacred place,” oftentimes a water spring, mountain, woods, cave, etc.

The area I went to today qualifies as another “power spot” and it is quite close to Seifa Utaki. It is another spot related to the goddess Amamikiyo.

ヤハラヅカサ Yaharazukasa is the name of the monument submerged at full tide, and is totally revealed at low tide. It is located within the Hyakuna beach 百名ビーチarea.

The meaning is broken down into ヤハラ yahara, which can be soft, healed, gentle (柔らかい yawarakai, 癒されるiyasareru, 優しい yasashii in Japanese). The second part ヅカサ zukasa means mound, 塚 zuka in Japanese. So the meaning is something like a mound to receive gentle healing.

Amamikiyo touched down at yaharazukasa through Hamagaa utaki 浜川御嶽 (utaki means sacred spot) after Kudaka-jima; 浜川 Hamagaa would be normally be pronounced Hamagawa in Japanese (beach + river). Hamagaa utaki is a small “shrine” area with a spring (gaa 川, river/spring in Okinawan language) running through the Ryukyuan limestone cliffs. It was happily burbling as I explored the area. This utaki area was also supposedly a location where the goddess would rest and heal. She came from the sea kingdom Nirai-kanai, the home of the gods and created the Ryukyu Islands.

The Hyakuna beach is free; same with parking if you go all the way down to the end of the drive. If not, you can also pay for parking in a lot about halfway to monument area, more by the beach sports access area.

I did not check the tides since I was just wandering about so, alas, I ended up here at nearly high tide. Sometime I shall go down just for low tide to see the monument in its fullest.

Later we went to the parking and cafe area for Seifa Utaki to enjoy some cool treats at the 2nd floor cafe. I had a mango float and my husband had shikwasa (Okinawan lime citrus) kakigouri (shave ice). The view was quite beautiful and we chose to sit outside and enjoy.


address for Hyakuna Beach: https://goo.gl/maps/TJeUAGAzutK2
*When you park at the end of the road, you can see a sign pointing into the wooded area. That is where Hamagaa utaki is. From the utaki, there is a rock step path down to the beach directly in front of the yaharazakasa monument. There are some well-worn signage with both English and Japanese information.

Seifa Kitchen cafe せーふぁキッチン: https://goo.gl/maps/MhHZRJhzjMv

Recommended: Ryukyu Confectionery Shops

I realize most foreigners are more interested in strange KitKat flavors than traditional confections, but for those who would like a true flavor of the Ryukyu Kingdom (you know, besides westernized beniimo tarts), here are some must-try places.

Ryukyu sweets are quite different from Japanese sweets, and are probably more similar to Chinese sweets since they were mostly developed to entertain the Chinese envoys when they visited the Ryukyu Royal Court. Most of these traditional confectionaries are centered around Shuri and Naha.

  1. Jahana Kippan: The Jahana family has been creating 2 types of traditional sweets for a long time; tougatsuke and kippan. These are exquisite and I cannot recommend them enough.
  2. Arakaki Kami, Arakaki Honpo and Arakaki Honke: these 3 shops are all descendants of the same ancestor, hence their similarities. But they are all 3 slightly different, so it is worth a look to check them out. They carry chiinsukou and chiirunkou, and I know Honke carries hanaborou, senjukou, and tauchiichau (described in a previous post here).
  3. Matsuhara Shop, located inside Makishi Market: You can try a lot of interesting things here at this shop, from sata andagi to muuchii, and even things like machikaji and kunpen. The sata andagi comes in many flavors, like brown sugar, beniimo, and more.
  4. Zaha Confection Shop: I have made several small purchases here. It is a bit of an odd mix of western style alongside some traditional Ryukyu items.

And of course, no trip to Okinawa would be complete without trying bukubuku-cha, tea of the Ryukyu royal court. Most places serve the tea with small traditional Ryukyu accompaniments, such as chinsukou, kunpen, kuzu mochi, etc.

Some of the more common confections such as chinsukou can be purchased in regular omiyage shops, airport stores, and grocery stores– but for something special (and possibly quite unique) I recommend you check out some of the places listed above.


address:

  1. Jahana Kippan: https://goo.gl/maps/vhUKgGsApJu
  2. Arakaki Honke: https://goo.gl/maps/kcFvzXA6BvQ2
  3. Arakaki Honpo (multiple locations, this is one is on Kokusai-dori): https://goo.gl/maps/hcwT4fMGPrw
  4. Arakaki Kami: https://goo.gl/maps/BgVJvnYJj3S2
  5. Matsuhara: https://goo.gl/maps/iJ91rdQeDm32
  6. Zaha: https://goo.gl/maps/6chzqKoLBiE2

Bukubuku-cha, at home

ぶくぶく茶 bukubuku-cha: “buku buku” tea, a type of Ryukyuan foamy tea using genmai-cha 玄米茶 (toasted rice tea) and sanpin-cha さんぴん茶 (jasmine tea). I wrote about bukubuku-cha and some of the cafes where you can experience this in Okinawa here.

Today, I decided to try to make it at home, using a little packet I purchased on Kokusai-dori. It actually turned out great! What a nice omiyage (souvenir) this would make for a tea lover.

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Well, when I opened it up, there were several individual little packets (green tea, sanpin tea, roasted rice, and crushed peanuts) inside, as well as a list of instructions… so I got together the things I needed: 500 mL hard water (mineral water, purchased at SanA), a whisk (or 3 chopsticks works, too), and some bowls/teacups.

Step 1 & 2: take the 500 mL of hard water and boil, add in the roasted rice, and let simmer (~medium heat) for 10-15 minutes).

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Step 3: Steep the sanpin tea and green tea in 500 mL of regular hot water (nearly boiling, we have a Japanese electric water kettle). As far as time, use the strength you prefer (probably ~ 3-5 minutes).

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Step 4: In a bowl, add 200 mL of the sanpin tea/green tea mixture and 100 mL of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 5: Using your bamboo whisk (or chopsticks), whisk to make foamy bubbles. As you make more bubbles, you can scoop them up and set them aside in another bowl if you desire.

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Step 6: In a teacup add some of just the sanpin tea/green tea mixture from Step 3. Add just a TINY amount of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 7: Add your foam on top of the tea in the teacups and top with the crushed peanuts. Now time to enjoy… I served it with the chiirunkou I purchased yesterday. Yum, a regular Ryukyuan tea party. This package is supposedly “individual” serving, but it was just enough for my husband and I to each enjoy a cup.

**The only thing in the packages were 1) green tea (sencha 煎茶), 2) jasmine tea, 3) roasted rice (煎り米 irigome, or sometimes known as genmai 玄米 and though this can also mean brown rice, here the meaning can also be roasted rice), and 4) crushed peanuts, so if you can get these plus mineral water you can make this yourself at home by following the above instructions.

Bingata, Ryukyu dyed fabric: 紅型

Bingata 紅型 is a traditional Ryukyuan technique to dye fabric. It is usually colorful and beautiful with many traditional designs showcasing the beauty and pride of Ryukuan (Okinawan) heritage. Here in Okinawa, there are many places where you can make your own!

Additionally, there are many places that sell kimono, bags, and other items made with this beautifully dyed fabric. Some of these handmade items are quite expensive, though.

I made this pictured example at Shuri Ryusen 首里琉染 (it is now in a nice frame and hanging on my wall), but there are other places to make similar items. Some people like making the whale shark or other Okinawa motif designs rather than the traditional design pictured. It makes a really nice souvenir of Okinawa!


Shuri Ryusen首里琉染: 沖縄県那覇市首里山川町 1-54

Digital Archive of Ryukyu/Okinawa Special Collection

On the University of the Ryukyus library website, “Digital Archive of Ryukyu/Okinawa Special Collection,” you can find valuable materials written in various languages. There are a fair number of English translations to go along with these special collections, though the website itself is mainly in Japanese. That being said, anyone with an interest in Ryukyu history ought to check it out. There are not a whole lot of resources available to English speakers, so I figured I would share this. If I have time, I may type up some more notes regarding these documents.

http://manwe.lib.u-ryukyu.ac.jp/d-archive/s/

Gusuku (Castle) Ruins

グスク (katakana) or 城 (kanji): “gusuku” is the Okinawan word for “castle,” rather than the more conventional Japanese pronunciation of “shiro” (by itself, or used in family names) or “-jo” (used with the name of the castle, such as Shuri-jo).

Major Gusuku Sites: These are the major sites, the ones that are UNESCO world heritage sites. These are not to be missed when you visit Okinawa. In addition there are some other UNESCO related sites in Okinawa, which I will save for another post.

Shuri-jo, reconstructed: This is the main castle site as it is the only one that is completely reconstructed, so this is a must-see for everyone. There is a large free area to walk around, but inside where they have artifacts displayed you must pay admission (adults 820yen). Parking is not free in this area, and can occasionally be difficult; I usually park in the lot in front by the lake and the art school. There are also several great events hosted here throughout the year, and often they will have traditional music and dance performances.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/oWMe5amhNvs

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Shuri-jo at Night

Nakagusuku-jo, partially reconstructed: There is an entrance fee (adults 400yen). There is plenty of free parking. Amazing views. There are often events held here during the year. Since this gusuku is closest to me, I come here often (and sometimes I walk from my house to here).
address: https://goo.gl/maps/KPRVTYN8Tv22

Katsuren-jo, partially reconstructed: Free entrance and plenty of parking. The views here are also spectacular on a clear day.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/ixUqbBEEhx22

 

Zakimi-jo, partially reconstructed: Free admission. Views during the day are okay, sunset would be ideal.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/hxVp8zQrmo22

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Nakijin-jo, partially reconstructed: Entrance fee (adults 400yen), there is not much in the closest parking area so you may have to walk on a busy day. Some good views and a very popular spot for sakura-viewing (hanami).
address: https://goo.gl/maps/6um9BbAWVVJ2

 

*Places with entrance fees have reduced rates for children, seniors, and groups.


Minor Gusuku Sites: I cannot actually list all these, as there are a lot of these former gusuku sites (and many really have nothing to see, just an empty field). I will try to list the ones that at least have something “nice” to see and worth a visit if you have a lot of time in Okinawa. Many of these sites are just partial stone walls, small shrines or worship areas, etc. Also since minor gusuku sites are not as much maintained, they are all free and generally very quiet.

South

Gushikawa (in Itoman): Nice spot at the very southern area of the main island.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/L58Gj7aBrLs

Tamagusuku: There are some walls remaining, but this is actually a nice site with some picturesque elements.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/hLYHxjjt9jJ2

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Chinen: Again, some walls remaining. Okay spot to stop at if you are in the area.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/4DFN3yuN8zJ2

Itokazu: Walls remaining, a nice stop down south.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/XLv1yeNabT72

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Ozato: Small, but again, good views.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/yL3UGw3xsD72

Middle

Urasoe: Also near “Hacksaw Ridge,” Battle of Okinawa site. This site also is nearby MANY other important Ryukyu area historical sites, so be sure to explore! I am meaning to make a post about the historical trail in the area…
address: https://goo.gl/maps/gGhKUHwPGLD2

Goeku: Discussed a bit in another post; not much to see though.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/XXa2QqvPQu52

Chibana: Not much to see here, and in a bit of disrepair. But there are some structures to see…
address: https://goo.gl/maps/y8w4mxKL4cu

North

Agena: Some interesting things to explore.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/Sp1NedUkzAp

Iha: Not too much of interest, but there are some structures.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/UWzYcp6Qccq

Yamada (in Onna): I finally made it here, but there is honestly not much to see as far as castle ruins… the trail and surrounding area however is great!
address: https://goo.gl/maps/Xo1iZDN4zhv

Nago: Interesting park to walk around. Also a popular sakura-viewing spot.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/x6tBFcuBuEJ2

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**I will add more pictures soon!

 

Koza Crossing Mural: コザ十字路絵巻

In Okinawa City 沖縄市, Gintengai shopping arcade 銀天街 at Koza Crossing コザ十字路 is home to a set of large wall murals spanning about 180 meters, depicting the past, present, and future of Koza Crossing; the history of a thousand years in Okinawa City is depicted. It is painted on the walls of the arcade street in a Japanese scroll painting style.

There is a large dragon, a mythical beast symbolizing the ability to fly through time and space, used in the central theme. The dragon is a symbol of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, watching over since the Goeku gusuku era, and guiding the city into the future. It was believed in Ryukuan mythology that dragons were powerful beings that lived in their own underwater kingdoms. Ryugu-jo 竜宮城 (or 龍宮城), the dragon king’s palace, is said to be at the bottom of the ocean near the Ryukyu islands (Okinawa) and belongs to Ryujin 龍神 (the name of the dragon king/god in Japanese). The palace is made of red and white corals, guarded by dragons, and full of treasure. As it represents a symbol of sea power, the king adopted the dragon as his symbol, and therefore Shuri-jo is covered in dragon decorations. Around Okinawa you will also see dragon symbols and decorations, particularly by ports or harbors.

It is divided into 4 main sections, beginning with the Ryukyu Kingdom era (specifically Goeku Gusuku era, 15th century), then to the war-time era of Koza (1945-50s), continuing into Vietnam war era (1960-70s), and into the present/future.

(1) 15th century: These illustrations are related mostly to the history of Goeku gusuku, showing thriving eisa and other traditional culture.

Sho Taikyu 尚泰久: sixth of the line of the first Sho Dynasty and named Prince of Goeku (part of Okinawa city). His reign of the Ryukyu kingdom was from 1454–1460.

Sho Seni  尚宣威: reign during 1477 (for only 6 months). Also a Prince of Goeku, after he abdicated his throne (inherited from the death of his older brother) to his nephew.

Uni-Ufugushiku鬼大城: (uni is oni 鬼 in Japanese, meaning “demon”). He was a Ryukyuan scholar, aristocrat, master fencer, and attendant to royal princess Momoto Fumiagari, who he later married (a long, complicated story involving Lord Amawari of Katsuren gusuku and Lord Gosamaru of Nakagusuku).

(2) Post WW2 era: 1945-50

Shows the influence of the American military rebuilding after the Battle of Okinawa and WWII, and the destruction of the Goeku gusuku with a picture of General MacArthur. There is also the term “champuru culture,” チャンプルー文化, to describe this section, meaning that due to the American military influence, a mixed and unique culture was born.

(3) Vietnam war era: 1960’s-70s. Frenzy of the Vietnam war.

The district was known as a black district, so it had a unique atmosphere; it was called Teruya kokujin machi 照屋黒人街, literally: Teruya black (person) city/street as it was primarily set up for African-American GIs. After the return to Japan, the development of the shopping arcade and the bustle of economy was booming.

(4) Present and future: This final sections shows the head of the dragon ushering the city into the future.

As part of the mural, there is also a bench that looks like machikaji マチカジ(松風, a local traditional snack that is tied like a ribbon, you can also spot it in the mural itself), as well as some tempura motif benches. The mascot of the street 天ぷらのぷーらくん Tempura no Puura-kun is painted into the mural as well; try to look for him in each section as he transcends time and space.

**There is PARKING at the Goeku park across the street; to get there, go BEHIND the Kanehide, then to the side towards the “river” (drainage ditch) and there will be a small lot, enough for about 4 cars.

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Location of the mural is at Rt 329 and 330 crossing, approximately here:  https://goo.gl/maps/ZDFwnDcYR6v

The Goeku gusuku (also known as Chibana castle) ruins 越来グスク跡 are nearby:  https://goo.gl/maps/bMnzC6zcUZs

Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi, Part II

The previous post described the first half of my walk today through Shuri’s Hijigaabira. This next part will focus on the second half where I took the Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi, the more famous of the Shuri stone paths which miraculously survived the Battle of Okinawa. It is quite scenic and reminiscent of the Ryukuan era, with many traditional Okinawan features.

Along the descent, there are some pricey cafe spots in addition to the historical sites. They offer fantastic views should you choose to grab a snack or drink there, though I have never tried any of the food or drinks… I usually just get a vending machine drink from the top of the path before entering.

There are several signs for botanicals, some very large old akagi (acacia) trees estimated to be more than 200 years old, utaki (places of worship), and gaa (water springs/wells). Partway down there will also be a rest house; if you remove your shoes you can enter and sit for awhile. The whole path has preserved characteristics of traditional Ryukuan architecture.

After exiting the stone path, it was time to head back, however we continued to pass some more historic sites along the way. First is the 金城橋 Kanagusuku-bashi (bridge). There are also some shokudo restaurants around this area where you can try local Okinawan food.

Further along we passed 前道(メーミチ) Mehmichi where many gaa (water springs) were abundant in the Ryukyuan era. Apparently there used to be (and still are a few now) tofu shops along here, which made use of the high quality spring water.

Imgur album for Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi, including hijigaabira and the Shuri flower exhibit:

Entrance (on Shuri-jo side) of Kinjo-cho stone pavement, next to a paid parking lot:  https://goo.gl/maps/CkK3oS4DfwJ2

Entrance (bottom of slope) of Kinjo-cho stone pavement, next to some restaurants:首里金城町2丁目84−3 https://goo.gl/maps/yMh9fvmw5742

Old Akagi tree along Kinjo-cho stone pavement: https://goo.gl/maps/dSRFp92PUbx

Gaa and rest house: https://goo.gl/maps/fSDRCLpmGM82

Hanta gaa ハンタガー (spring) in Mehmichi: https://goo.gl/maps/vpif7DcELwu

Shikinaen (garden): https://goo.gl/maps/VmKM69jNEis

I did not pass it on this trip, however there is also a shrine near Shikinaen gardens, called Shikinagu 識名宮: https://goo.gl/maps/YXRRaETMz1Q2

Preview of route: 

map route in Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/RcM2AtCDu3k

Hijigaa-bira maai & Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi

ヒジガービラまーい (ヒジ川ビラ) Hijigaabira maai: this comes from the name of the spring water well on the west side of the cobblestone road; it looks like a beard 髭 (hige in Japanese, hiji ヒジ in Okinawa language). A “gaa” is a river 川 (gaa ガー in Okinawan, kawa in Japanese). “Hira” (turns to a “b” sound, bira, when combined) means slope, and maai is meaning a loop road.

金城町石畳道 Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi: Kinjo-cho is the name of the town; “ishi” means rock in Japanese, the path is cobbled so it somewhat resembles Japanese tatami. “Michi” means road in Japanese. This path is quite famous, and survived the Battle of Okinawa quite intact.

Today’s walking adventure consisted of walking 2 famous Ryukyuan era stone paths in the Shuri area, which are also part of the Madama-michi 真珠道 (Ryukyuan era military route).

We parked at Shikinaen (gardens) 識名園, in the large public parking lot in the area where these routes begin. From the park, there were several signs pointing the way. You do pass through a large graveyard, but not to worry, this is an actual road. There is also an awesome bakery Imai Pain いまいパン along the road; it has many delicious goodies (yes, they spell it pain, as in the French word for bread, instead of “pan” like in romaji).

The lesser known historical stone path, Hijigaa bira maai, has several points of interest with plaque markers, some of them with a bit of English. It is steep in portions, and since there are some sections stone path it is best to wear shoes with a decent grip. Pictured below is a “map” of the route on one of the stone plaques.

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The actual path starts at the Hijigaa (1) bridge adjacent to Kinjo dam. The bridge itself does not seem so interesting as a whole, but a good amount of craftmanship went into constructing this type of bridge.

From here, we crossed the street to the entrance of the Hijigaa stone slope (2); down the street before entering the stone path, there is yet another nice little desserts shop Dessert Labo Chocolat in case you need some extra energy before starting.

The stones making up the path are preserved history, of a long ago Ryukyu kingdom. Along here you can find the Hijigaa (3), though it is fairly covered with overgrowth. Continuing along, the original stone pavement itself will end, however you will continue to see signs for the path as well as stone tiles set into the regular road making it quite easy to follow. There are some turtleback tombs 亀甲墓 kamekoubaka (4), and then a large tomb area for Gima Shinjo (5), a guy who helped spread sweet potatoes in Okinawa as well as some other contributions.

There are 2 more grave sites for Tasato Chochoku and Kuniyoshi no Hiya (6), off a small pathway. Tasato helped to develop Kumiodori during the 18th century. Kuniyoshi no Hiya was a lord who lived in the 15th Century, and appears in one of Tasato’s plays.

Next will be the ruins site of the Uchaya-udun (7), a Ryukyu tea house where royalty entertained Chinese envoys; not much to see here as it was destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa, and right now it is located within the premises of the Shuri Catholic Church. Continuing back to the path leads to a small park starting with the Uchaya-udun stone lion (shisa) 御茶屋御殿石獅子 (8). It was also destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa, but has been restored.

Next you come to 雨乞御嶽 Amagoi utaki (9): place of worship for rain. Around here you will notice spectacular views; there is an observation deck area and on a clear day (like today) you can see the Keramas. Now you have made it to the Sakiyama Park (10, 11, 12); there is another hijagaa and a few more utaki (places of worship). Today we were fortunate to see the first blooms of sakura in the park. From here it ends at a marked entrance spot near the Awamori distillery Zuisen 瑞泉 (13), the same street where the sagaribana bloom in summer. A short while later you come upon Shureimon守礼門 (14) located at Shuri-jo 首里城.

The second part of our walk was through Shuri-jo and then back down towards Shikinaen via Kinjo-cho ishidatami michi (15); continued here in Part 2.

For some pictures along the route, check out the imgur album; although I didn’t think to get pictures of every stop on the way, I think I got most of them.

Some addresses to help with mapping:

Shikinaen 識名園: 〒902-0072沖縄県那覇市字真地421-7  https://goo.gl/maps/VmKM69jNEis

Imai Pain いまいパン: 902-0072 沖縄県那覇市真地12-4 https://goo.gl/maps/tFY22zv4Vqn

Google map coordinates for the Hijigaa bridge: https://goo.gl/maps/CyiK2VDVfC92

Stone shisa by Sakiyama park: https://goo.gl/maps/nFGstTs29BC2

Sakiyama Park 崎山公園: 沖縄県那覇市首里崎山町1丁目  https://goo.gl/maps/FX2g7u9kKc32

Zuisen Awamori distillery 瑞泉酒造: 〒903-0814 沖縄県那覇市首里崎山町1-35  https://goo.gl/maps/1SJ3Mj5T2Bx

Entrance (on Shuri-jo side) of Kinjo-cho stone pavement, next to a paid parking lot:  https://goo.gl/maps/CkK3oS4DfwJ2

Entrance (bottom of slope) of Kinjo-cho stone pavement, next to some restaurants:首里金城町2丁目84−3 https://goo.gl/maps/yMh9fvmw5742

Preview of route: 

map route in Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/RcM2AtCDu3k

Ryukyuan lacquerware: 琉球漆器

Ryukyu no Shikki 琉球漆器: Ryukyuan lacquerware.

While lacquerware may have began in China and Japan, it was brought to Okinawa during the Ryukyu kingdom era and adapted to its own unique style. It is distinct from other styles, especially in its use of reds.

I was given a gift of Ryukyuan lacquerware hashi 箸 (chopsticks) a while ago. They are so nice, I hesitate to use them! But I think I will break them out for the New Year.

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Tougatsuke: 冬瓜漬

冬瓜漬: tougatsuke, tougadzuke. The first 2 kanji are 冬瓜 tougan, which is “winter melon” in English. The last kanji is 漬 (usually ‘tsuke’) meaning “pickle” or “preserve.” So the meaning of this term is something like pickled/preserved winter melon.

Tougan is also known as shibui しぶい in Okinawan language. It is a very hearty and cheap vegetable here in Okinawa. The word winter melon is sort of funny, because it is actually harvested in summer, but it is easy to store these and they will last all winter, so hence winter melon.

Anyway,  I recently visited the Jahana Kippan Shop 謝花きっぱん店 in Naha. These shop is the only shop that still makes 2 very famous Ryukuan sweets called kippan and tougatsuke. During the Ryukyu kingdom era, these sweets were enjoyed by the emperor and high ranking nobles as delicacies, one of the 16 types of special fruits and desserts served in the Royal Court. This shop has amazing quality sweets, everything I sampled was so good; since I am a student, my budget was the “imperfect” pieces that they sold in small bags instead of the beautiful perfectly shaped ones.

To make tougatsuke, the juiciest flesh from tougan is used, as well as Okinawan sugarcane. There are no preservatives or artificial flavors here, just natural food made in the same style as the Ryukyu kingdom era. It is amazing that a simple tougan is turned into this sweet concoction! They recommend keeping it chilled, slicing thin pieces, and serving with tea or dessert wine. It is hard to describe the exact flavor– it was very sweet, and a little juicy, sort of melts in your mouth. An excellent pairing with some green tea.

Update: I later purchased the shiqwasa flavored tougatsuke and it is also delicious. I sampled the Okinawan sugarcane rum flavor in the store as well, and it was nice with a hint of rummy flavor.

Address:Okinawa, Naha, Matsuo 1-5-14
https://goo.gl/maps/vhUKgGsApJu

Hanta Michi: ハンタ道

ハンタ hanta: Okinawan word for “cliff”

道 michi: road or path

Hanta Michi is an old Ryukyu kingdom  road constructed around the Gusuku era (12th century). It runs from Shuri-jo to Katsuren-jo, passing through Kouchi-jo in Nishihara and Nakagusuku-jo in Nakagusuku Village. Several historical cultural properties remain along this path. It was lined with pine trees, cutting through hills and cliffs along the way.

Nowadays, the most accessible path of Hanta Michi is from the SanA on Rt 29 in Nakagusuku through to Nakagusuku-jo. Agai-tidabashi (bridge behind the SanA/Matsumoto Kiyoshi/Wafuutei) is the typical starting point. The trail ends at the border with Nakagusuku-jo– if you enter the premise you are supposed to pay the entrance fee at the end of the path marks the beginning of the castle ruins site. Another important thing to remember is that the gate to leave the castle site will be LOCKED if you are walking the trail during closed hours (one of my friends ran into trouble with this…), so if you plan on using the castle ruins as an exit, you must go when the premises is open for business.

The path runs from urban to rural farms to forested area, with sweeping views over Nakagusuku Bay. Occasionally the path is overgrown, depending on the season. A good tip to remember is to look for the white-ish coral stone in the road along the path in most areas. It is not too long of a “hike” (walk?) to do the whole thing, maybe 5 km or so one-way, within 2 hours if you walk with a regular pace with a few stops for pictures or a snack.

If you plan your day well, you can make sure to take a break or end at one of the restaurants along the path (near the SanA end, not Nakagusuku-jo end). I recommend either LOHAS garden or Hanta Baru, both have good food and gorgeous views overlooking Nakagusuku Bay.

Click the imgur link for images:

http://imgur.com/a/NBoGF

 

Sites along the Hanta Michi:

Agai-tidabashi Bridge 東太陽橋: Stunning views of Nakagusuku and the bay can be admired on sunny days. It is also a very popular spot to watch the first sunrise of the New Year and for full moon viewing.

161.8 Kouchi Jinchi 161.8高地陣地: Atop of the rocky mountain at an elevation of 160m in Kitauebaru area, the Japanese army built a high-ground position, known as 161.8 Kouchi Jinchi. A panoramic view, north to south, from Chatan town and Yomitan village to the Chinen peninsula is possible from this location.

Kishimakono-taki キシマコノ嶽: Okuma settlement began at the top of the mountain and people in the settlement still pray at this prayer ground today.

Arakaki Stone Bridge 新垣の石橋: This arched stone bridge is located over the stream near the fields of the Arakaki settlement. Similar types of stone bridges existed until just after WWII, however now there is only one remaining.

Prefectural Road Construction Monument 県道開削記念碑: This monument was built in commemoration of the opening of the Futenma-Yonabaru route (currently rt. 35) in October 1934.

Tunmaasu ツンマース: A pine tree is encircled by a low stonewall. Arakaki gusuku and Nakagusuku-jo are to the east and Ginowan is to the west.

Arakaki Gusuku 新垣グスク: The year for the construction of this castle is unknown, however, it is estimated to be early 14th century. Utaki (sacred place in Ryukyu culture) and shrine are seen inside the castle ruin grounds. These places are considered to be highly significant for the Arakaki settlement.

Uchibara-no-tun 内原の殿(ウチバラノトゥン): Hall of worship in Arakaki gusuku where people pray for health, longevity and to give thanks for good harvests.

Perry’s Banner Rock (Taachii Ishi) ペリーの旗立岩: It is said that Commodore Perry and his expedition team placed the American flag on top of this rock with a gun salute to commemorate their conquest during their expedition in Okinawa.

Giisu-no-tera ギイスのテラ: Prayer ground located south west of Nakagusuku-jo. The ancestor of Masu Shimabukuro of Soeshi village is said to have enshrined the spirit stone and began the ritual here.


SanA near the starting point of the Hanta Michi: https://goo.gl/maps/BXbBdYVTUh32

Nakagusuku-jo (end point): https://goo.gl/maps/GWHKmPFzMPv

Map Link (Google Maps): here


Extra information on MapItOkinawa: http://www.mapitokinawa.com/search?q=hanta