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3-Day Model Trip Day1

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Okinawa / Naha - Ryukyu-son theme park - Manzamo - Onna Beach - Busena Points

Okinawa, situated at the southwestern edge of Japan, consists of over 100 islands of all sizes. The major parts of Okinawa are the Okinawa Islands, the Miyako Islands, the Yaeyama Islands and the Daito Islands among the southwestern islands dotted in the sea that stretch some 1,300 km to the border of Taiwan. You will feel the climate and culture that are significantly different from those in other parts of Japan. Vivid colored flowers bloom all the year round, and the houses have red tile roofs. The annual average temperature is over 20 centigrade, and it is over 10 centigrade even in winter. The hot and humid subtropical oceanic climate has created beautiful coral reefs of 370 kinds and a treasury of rare species of animals and plants, including the precious natural monuments Iriomote wildcats and flightless Yambaru water rails. Okinawa, formerly called Ryukyu, had developed its own Ryukyu culture that is a unique blend of the Japanese and Chinese cultures and its indigenous culture since the 15th century to the mid 19th century. You can see it in the architectural style of the Shuri Castle, a palace of the Ryukyu Dynasty in the middle ages in the Okinawa Island and the patterns of the local dyed textile called "bingata" with the semi-Chinese, semi-Japanese features. This unique cultural style of Okinawa is commonly known as the "chanpuru", taken after the local specialty dish chanpuru where assortment of foodstuff is fried together.

The Okinawa Main Island occupies over 50% of the total area of the prefecture. I visited this island for this tour. It is about 180 km long with a population of 1.3 million. There is no railway, and therefore cars and buses are the major means of transportation.

I got on a local bus and headed for the northern part known for a beautiful beach resort. The Ryukyu Mura, located at On'na-son village 30 km north to Naha, is a theme park where you can see old houses and performances of local traditions of various islands of Ryukyu. At the festival plaza near the entrance, men in ethnic costume were performing "Eisa," a festival attraction of dance while beating the drums. They have transferred old houses surrounded with stonewalls and fences to the park. The peaceful atmosphere made me feel as if I had wandered into a village of Ryukyu about a century ago. A pair of lions called "Shisa" perched on all the old red tile roofs of the houses. They are protector mascots against evil. It is a common sight of Okinawa to see a Shisa with a mouth open and another with a mouth shut perching on the gate pole. The one with an open mouth is male, and he is taking in luck with his mouth. The other with a closed mouth is female, and she is preventing the luck from escaping. These old houses also serve as workshops for traditional weaving and dying crafts handed down in the Ryukyu Region, and they were demonstrating and selling the works and conducting experimental courses for the visitors. As I walked along, I smelt some sweet scent floating in the air. A water buffalo was grinding a mill called "sataya". As I had a closer look, it was sugar canes. They were making brown sugar, a specialty of Okinawa, in the ancient sugar making process.

I got on a bus from the Ryukyu Mura and went on northward. The coast stretching about 30 km to the north from here is one of the most prominent beach resorts in Okinawa. The coast was studded with various accommodation facilities, from large-size resort hotels to small inns. I got off the bus at On'na-son Yakuba-mae bus stop, and headed for the Manzamo Park. As I walked on the promenade toward the sea, a huge limestone rock with a large hole emerged into my sight. This is a 20-meter tall raised reef. The right side of the large hole looked like an elephant's trunk. This humorous coast attracts many tourists as one of the best sights of Okinawa. The top of the steep cliff is a park with a promenade in the lawn. You can see the beautiful blue surf from any point in the park. The beautiful and magnificent scenery of the waves rushing against the precipices made me forget the passage of time.

I had been told that there is a talk-of-the-town sightseeing spot further north, so I got back on the bus, and got off at The Busena Resort-mae bus stop. As I walked toward the end of the Busena Point, I saw a beautiful building in the half-Ryukyu, half-Western style with a red tile roof. This is the Bankoku Shinryokan used as the main conference hall for the "Kyushu Okinawa Summit Meeting" held from July 21 to 23, 2000. It is used as a convention hall for international conventions and other events, but it is open to public when no conventions are scheduled. Many visitors come over everyday to have a look at the site where the leaders of the world gathered for the Summit meeting. The facility consists of a convention ward with two floors and a basement, a lounge ward, a reception ward and other annexes. The convention ward stands behind the poles of the national flags of the participating countries to the Summit meeting. It is a glassed-in building with removable walls on the three sides. This is an architecture in the semi-open-air space style that admits light and wind into the interior. It is indeed a subtropics-like design. The beautiful blue sea lay beyond the glass walls. I heard the colors of the ocean surface show the rainbow-like gradation with emerald green, blue, cobalt blue, etc. on fine days. This is because the transparency of the seas around Okinawa is very high, allowing reflection of the colors of the seabed. It is a wonderful sight highly lauded by the participants of the Summit meeting.

The neighboring lounge ward has rooms where the leaders of the world relaxed between meetings. The lounge has Ryukyu limestone walls and rattan chairs, consideration to enhance relaxation. There were displays of the real size replicas of the autographs of the leaders of the world. The name Bankoku Shinryokan comes from the inscription carved on the bell of the Shuri Castle, the seat of the government of Ryukyu in the 15th century when Okinawa thrived as the transit port for the trades in the southern seas, meaning "the bridge between the worlds". It is a suitable name for the point of international exchange.

Now, I came all the way to Okinawa, so how could I pass this opportunity to enjoy the beautiful beach? Okinawa is the Mecca for scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing and every other marine sports. You can look for colorful corals, play with tropical fishes, and experience the beauty and fun of a south sea. There are numerous shops that rent out the gear for marine sports around the beach. The environment to enjoy different activities is well prepared for. There are also submarines and glass boats to explore the seabed, so people of all ages can have a wonderful time.

I went to the underwater observation tower in the premise of the high-class Busena Terrace Beach Resort Hotel, standing next to the Bankoku Shinryokan. I could see the sea of corals and various fishes from the observation tower at the depth of 3 meters. As I watched the fishes with vivid colors swimming around, I imagined the underwater paradise which the ancient people called Ryugu, or a dragon's palace. I remembered that my guidebook said the old name of Okinawa, Ryukyu derived from this word Ryugu.