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:
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.
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.
Buffets in Japan are often called “viking” バイキング (baikingu). Tabehoudai 食べ放題 means “all you can eat.”
Kinjo bakery in Shuri has a savory and sweet bread buffet, during morning and lunch/cafe times. It is really pretty good, and the price is not too bad either, especially if you bring your appetite (adults are 648 yen in the morning and 810 yen at lunch, cheaper for kids). You can stay for 2 hours, and there is self-serve coffee, tea, and juice. But it is total carb and sugar overload!
I only stayed for probably 45 minutes, just to get out of my office during lunch break, and nibbled on some breads, but even if I did not take full advantage I was happy with the price and everything was tasty (though I definitely had 800 yen worth of bread and tea). There were so many choices, and the staff kept bringing out more stuff. Next time I will need to bring my laptop and some study stuff, and use up my 2 hours. There were some small groups of people eating, as well as a few one individuals like myself, also students looking for a good bargain. I should have taken more pictures, the selection was overwhelming!
The の “no” character is short for “noshi” のし or 熨斗, which is a ceremonial origami fold used to express good wishes or good fortune, usually attached to gifts. It is seen at any kind of celebration like a wedding, new baby, New Years, housewarming… people give gifts or money envelopes with this decoration on it.
ぎぼまんじゅう Gibo Manjuu in Shuri sells special manjuu まんじゅう (steamed buns) with the no character painted in red, known as no-manjuu のー饅頭. The manjuu are only 150yen and come out piping hot, enormous and packed with subtly sweet red bean paste. They are wrapped in sannin サンニン (also known as gettou 月桃 in Japanese or shell ginger in English) leaves, so you have the slight fragrance reminiscent of Ryukyu sweets. It is delicious and absolutely filling. It is highly recommended to visit and try these manjuu!
Although the shop is currently located at Kubagawa in the Shuri area, it was originally by the Seikou temple in Gibo (another area of Shuri), so the name is Gibo Manjuu since the business is over a century old. The number of manjuu sold each day is limited, so be sure to go early!
Shuri-ori 首里織 is a type of Ryukuan textile woven on a loom. One of the most common patterns is Shuri Hana Ori (hana means “flower”), and there is a simple flower pattern that appears in the fabric. Another pattern is Shuri Roton Ori, which has raised vertical treads.
You can try your hand at shuri-ori (and other Ryukuan crafts) at the Traditional Handicrafts Center in Naha, near Kokusai-dori. My husband and I made our own coasters awhile ago, and it was a lot of fun. There are several other types of traditional crafts you can try here as well.
I have also received a few gifts of small shuri-ori items; the size of table mats and coasters. The patterns and colors are simple, yet quite nice, and really look elegant. If you just want to purchase, not weave your own, there are several shops around Shuri and Naha.
だるま (達磨) Daruma are round, and usually red, Japanese traditional dolls with a bearded man’s face painted on it. The eyes are left blank; it is used to keep track of aspirations or goals and motivate you to work hard to accomplish them. The recipient of the doll fills in one eye upon setting the goal, and then the other when it is completed, such that every time you see the one-eyed daruma you think about reaching the goal. Daruma are symbols of perseverance and good luck, which makes them a popular gift of encouragement. Darumas are usually made of papier-mâché and are hollow with weight at the bottom so that they always return to an upright position when tilted over. This characteristic has come to symbolize the ability to have success, overcome adversity, and recover from misfortune.
There is a temple dedicated to daruma near Shuri-jo. It is called Daruma-dera Sairaiin だるま寺西来院. Students come here to offer prayers when exams are near, and I think this one is also popular for families to come pray for safe and easy childbirth. It is a small temple, but full of character. This lovely temple is located behind the Shuri-jo area, and well worth a visit when you are in the area.
In Shuri, near the castle, I teach 英会話 eikawa; “English Conversation.” My class is predominantly “older” Okinawan/Japanese women (although the 1 man is actually a rather well known figure within Okinawa, and has recently won a special award from the Emperor). After class, sometimes I will take lunch with them, and we usually go to this cute restaurant located within a women’s mental health clinic. 喫茶 kissa means like coffee/tea cafe, so I usually just call this place Cafe Ufu.
Cafe Ufu is on the small side, only a few tables, and a tatami room for larger parties. The menu is pretty simple; usually people just order the set of the day, which comes with a variety of carefully prepared, healthful Japanese dishes. Everything there always tastes so good, and I usually feel pretty genki afterwards. Plus is is so reasonably priced ~800yen!
Even though it is next to a women’s mental health clinic, it is not just for women, so men should visit, too. Although the meals might be more geared towards ladies in mind!