Higashi Village: blessed with nature and scenery
By Natalie Nakamatsu
Higashi Village is well known in northern Okinawa for its scenic beauty, fresh air and abundant nature. It’s also the home to Okinawa’s best known professional lady golfer, Ai Miyazato.
It is located in the northeastern part of Okinawa’s main island along its Pacific coast, bordering Nago City to the south, Ogimi Village to the west and Kunigami Village to the north. The village is consists of six districts although most businesses and the Village Office is centered in Taira.
Visiting the village from densely populated southern Okinawa would be a whole day excursion, as it is a long drive by Okinawan standards. After getting off the expressway in Kyoda, Nago, continue straight on Highway 58, and turn right across the island at Ogimi. All in all it’s about 1.5-hour drive from Okinawa City.
Although Okinawa is famous as an island with much of nature’s richness, the scale differs a bit in this village. With a population of only 1,900, the village has much to offer to those who enjoy camping, kayaking, fishing, BBQ, trekking and an extravagant night sky that will take your breath away. The village has several rivers and mountains within its borders that provide many trekking routes and paths for those who enjoy a good walk. Plus, the air is one so pure and clean, you might feel a shock when returning back to the crowded south.
In addition to the abundant nature, there are some products that Higashi Village is famous for, such as pineapples which are some of the sweetest and juiciest one can find anywhere, but rarely found in Okinawan stores because most are exported to mainland Japan. However, they are available in the village. Another product would be the tea. Tea can only be cultivated in areas where the water is rich and pure, making Higashi Village one the best places for tea to grow.
As with every location in Okinawa, Higashi Village has special products to offer and memorable places to visit to create memories that you can cherish the rest of your life after your visit.
Azalea (Tsutsuji) Eco Park
Although Higashi Azalea Eco Park is best known for its annual festival, the park also offers camping grounds for tents and wooden cottages accommodating 4, 6 or 8 adults are available for rent at reasonable prices all year around. BBQ set is available for rent as are all necessary accessories and even BBQ meals. Advance reservation is required.
There is a variety of hiking trails through the woods including a guided tour (in Japanese only) to observe and learn about the lush nature of the area. The various hiking trails are graded according to their difficulty. A restaurant on the premises serves simple Okinawan-style meals. For more information, call 0980-43-3300 (in Japanese). Their address is 766-1 Taira, Higashi Village.
Minatogawa Farm is one of the few farms on Okinawa to offer strawberry picking. All farm produce is grown using a special type of water and manure, which is both safe and healthy. Strawberry picking is normally available from January 15th through mid June. Reservations are required and the farm is closed on Mondays and Fridays. You can also try your hand in the harvest of Chinese white radish from mid January through May. Tomato picking takes place from March through May. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Address is 382 Gesaji, Higashi Village, Kunigami District. Their telephone is 0980-43-2542.
Okinawa Kaguya Hime
Okinawa Kaguya Hime Park is a one-of-its-kind on Okinawa that has both a rose and hibiscus garden. Many other varieties of flowers also bloom there according to seasons. Wooden cottages and space for camping are available as well. It is an ultimate spot in nature to relax and loosen up. Open all year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission to the park for adults is ¥500, and ¥250 for school age children. Kids under elementary school age are free of charge.
Sakishima Suo-no ki (Sakishima Sappanwood Tree)
The Sakishima Sappanwood tree belongs to the family of the Chinese parasol-tree. It’s growing on islands south from Amami Oshima. This particular three grows on the bank Fukuji River and is one of Higashi Village’s natural monuments and said to be the largest of its kind on Okinawa main island. The tree is about 18 meters tall, and has a circumference of nearly three meters at 1.5 meters above the ground. Its most remarkable feature is its vertically flat roots that curl about above the ground. The tree is located about 800 meters from the mouth of the Fukuji River.
At the Sunrise Higashi road station you can find many of Higashi Village’s products and a restaurant. It is right on the beach and a great place to enjoy a meal while enjoying the ocean view. If you’re visiting form the southern part of Okinawa and on your way up north, this is the last store on the west coast before Oku near Hedo Point at the northernmost tip of the island, which might be useful to keep in mind before continuing to the north.
Fukuji Park is located right behind the Higashi Museum. It offers great nature and breathtaking hills. While adults enjoy a time in the museum, children can have a great time in nature, completely away from the city life of Okinawa.
“Uppama” means big in Okinawa dialect. And it really does justice to its name, as the beach is very big and beautiful. The beach has toilets but no showers. The season runs from April through September.