Michi-no Eki Yuiyui Kunigami is home of Yambaru Kuina
By Mana Komatsu
Our seventh and last introduction of Okinawa’s Michi-no Eki is Yuiyui Kunigami in Kunigami village. The road station was built as the northernmost Michi-no Eki in Okinawa. Kunigami village is located in the northernmost part of the
island, an area covered with deep woods, and includes the highest mountain on the main island of Okinawa, Mount Yonaha.
The village and these forests is well known as a treasure trove of precious wildlife with several endangered species and designated Special Natural Monuments making the area their home. Yambaru-Kuina, Noguchi-gera and Yambaru-tenaga-kogane are the best known of these. Besides, because of its abundant nature, the village promotes hands-on and community-based sightseeing excursions, and the area is recommended to visitors who enjoy wildlife and forests.
“We focus on introducing local special products and providing advice on how to enjoy the great nature,” says Isamu Taira, the manager of Yuiyui Kunigami. There is an information counter inside the facility, offering introductions of sightseeing spots to best enjoy Kunigami’s nature.
Countless Okinawan souvenirs and special local products such as groceries, t-shirts and cosmetics line the shelves in the building. Each Michi-no Eki has its special item that is not to be found anywhere else. Some of the specialty products here are Kunigami Doughnuts and Karagi tea. Karagi tea is dry cinnamon
leaf tea grown in the village. The tea has fresh aroma, and sweet and refreshing taste. Three cake shops in the village created Kunigami Doughnuts. Preservatives are not used and they are made of carefully selected materials. They are handmade, and brought fresh into the Michi-no Eki every morning. However, they are very popular with visitors, and often sold out by early afternoon. In addition, the souvenir shop sells goods and stationery related to wildlife in Yambaru.
There are two restaurants, Kuina and Waayaa. The two restaurants serve Yambaru Inobuta dishes that are available only in Kunigami. The most popular dishes on the menu are Inobuta Soba and Inobuta Donburi.
Yambaru Inobuta is a crossbreed between the wild boar (inoshishi) and the domestic pig (buta). Called Inobuta the hybrids are bred and raised only in Kunigami Village. It especially attracts women’s attention because of its simple, bland and deep taste.
There is a display space showing visitors details of Yambaru’s natural environment. Four tenant shops selling seafood, sweets, flowers and farm produce are also set up in the facility.
“This is very suitable for having relaxing time, and Inobuta soba was good, indeed.” said a couple from Gifu prefecture. They also mentioned that Michi-no Eki in Okinawa are fun as they offer not only souvenirs but fresh local farm produce.
Kunigami village has plenty of enjoyable spots of nature, including Manabi-no Mori that offers trekking and canoeing, Daisekirinzan, a quasi-national park, Hijiotaki, a big waterfall, Hiji campsite, and learning facilities for natural environment such as Yambaru Kuina monitoring house and Ufugi Nature Museum. Besides, there is Okuma Beach and resort for those who want to enjoy modern creature comforts, too.
Yambaru Kuina, a unique flightless bird was selected a signature character of the village, so many sightseeing areas connected to the bird exist Its breeding season is now, and with its activity increasing, the chances to encounter the bird is also higher. Early morning is the best, but drivers are urged to be extra cautious when driving in the area to avoid road kills.
Yuiyui Kunigami is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It takes about a seventy-minute drive from the Kyoda exit of the Okinawa Expressway in Nago.
This is the last introduction of seven Michi-no Eki in Okinawa. Each road station is deeply linked to its local area, and have their special food, souvenirs and an atmosphere you cannot feel anywhere else. They offer resting space and quality information. The facilities will help your travel and driving.