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Hija River offers easy escape, wild festival

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-06-27

Looking for a quick escape away from the sounds of the city? There are a few places that you can go to and enjoy some peace and quiet, without having to drive very far. Located just beyond Kadena Circle going north on Highway 58 is the Hija River. It is one of the larger rivers on Okinawa. It meanders through parts of Okinawa City and Kadena, before emptying its contents into the East China Sea along the coastline of Yomitan Village. The calm river cuts through forested areas, and is also the home to many mangrove trees and flora. Heron birds skim across the water flying graciously, stopping occasionally on the river's banks to pluck a small fish or two out of the water for a meal. Although the river had become polluted over the years, recent community efforts have helped it to become much cleaner. The government has also created paths for cycling and walking, which help to make the area a convenient place to enjoy a nice Sunday morning jogging or peddling along the banks of the river.

Hija River will also be the center of the Hija River Festival, held July 18 and 19. The event will feature all kinds of water-related fun for the entire family, including homemade raft races.

After passing the circle on Highway 58, you will come to the bridge that goes over the river. The Hispanic Culture Center will be on your right, and an apartment building on your left. Turn left at the traffic light into the small parking lot. There will be a white coffee shop straight ahead. You can park your car along the fence. From there, you can either walk across the highway and head upstream, or go along the river down stream.

Going upstream you will proceed through some very heavily shaded areas with giant ferns and many subtropical plants. The river will be on your left, while a tall cliff rises above on your right. There are also many old traditional Okinawan tombs located along the cliff sides. You will eventually reach a park with many pavilions and shaded rest areas. There is plenty of room for kids to run around, and there are public toilets available. From here you can relax and get a nice view of the river and its surrounding banks.

If you choose to go downstream, enter the path from the parking area, and you immediately enter much of the same scenery as upstream. Jungle like plants protrude out from the cliffs on your left, as the path winds along the river, following its every curve. At certain points, the path widens into small rest areas along the river bank, with steps leading into the river. From here locals can sometimes be seen casting fishing rods into the water. Mangrove trees on both sides of the river provide shade and shelter for smaller fish.

Eventually the path will come to an end, but you can continue walking or riding, where you will come to a small fishing port. From here, the river also begins to change color as it meets with the sea. The noise of traffic returns as you continue your course to the end of the river on a side walk. Here, plenty of Okinawans, both young and old, sit along the wall fishing the day away. Old men meet to chat with each other, and occasionally someone reels in a catch. Across the river at its mouth, is another beautiful park just near Toguchi beach. Continuing on, you will come to the steps of Mizugama, where many divers come to dive the coral reefs.

The early morning stillness makes the river peaceful and tranquil. Even after you leave the quietness of the river behind, the blue ocean stretching out beyond is a nice welcome. You can find many more nature spots in the northern part of Okinawa, which are totally isolated, but for an easy escape in the middle of the city, head for the Hija river.

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