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Locally grown pineapples pack sweet punch

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-09-16

Pineapples are one of Okinawa’s key agricultural fruit exports, along with tangerines.

Plantations abound on the north side of the island, where today we will venture to Yambaru and the Nago Pineapple Park. This is definitely a family outing, so you’ll definitely want your camera.

The pineapple park follows the standard tourist attraction code: Attract, see, feel, taste, and purchase. Our 1½ hour visit, with kids, covered all the bets. Parking is plentiful, and visitors quickly find their way to the kiosk to purchase tickets for the motorized pineapple cars which whisk you through the pineapple fields to see the growing process. Entry to the Nago Pineapple Park itself is free, but the cart ride is ¥200 a head. Not a bad price, though, considering the ride, the adventure, and the English language narration as you travel the grounds.

Pineapples are pineapples, right? Well, no. There are dozens of varieties, and the display shows the differences. Have your camera ready, because the 10-minute ride takes you within inches of pineapples at varying stages of growth. The narration explains the pineapple’s history on Okinawa and the cultivation process.

A unique feature of the park is a Shell Gallery, where more than 1,000 different types of shells are on display. Many can be touched and felt. There are display panels showing the shell’s growth from grain of sand to a beautifully shaped seashell.

Once past the Gallery, the fun begins in earnest (Parents, watch the kids!) as you enter the museum-like park.

Nago Pineapple Park is well known for its sweet pineapple wines, created in a winery right on the premises. You can watch the fermenting and bottling process, and then taste the fruity wines themselves. The park’s original wine, called “Lagcima Del Sol” (literally, ‘Tears of the Sun’ in Spanish), can be sampled. It’s made from 100% Okinawa pineapples. On the wine label is the image of three suns, with each sun representing joy, love and wrath in tribute to mother nature.

The wine taps flow freely, and … did we mention, free? Not recommended for kids though. There are also vats of regular pineapple juice available for unlimited tasting by the whole family.

Taste the pineapple. There’s no limit to how much sampling you can do, or how long you can do it. There are tables filled with pineapple trays begging your indulgence.

And of course, there is the shopping area. Pineapple, cut pineapple, pineapple pound cake, and pineapple chocolates are but a few of the tasty treats to take home. And there is more traditional shopping too; pineapple shaped key chains and other goodies are available. The shopping center offers shipping options, so you can send a bit of Okinawa home to friends and relatives.

Getting There

Take Highway 58 and head for Nago. Remain on highway 58 until you reach the crossroad, then turn left at the traffic light (there’s a toy shop ahead of you). Go straight about five minutes, and you’ll see the Nago Pineapple Park on the right. The alternative is to take the Expressway to the northern end, Kyodo, then proceed north on Highway 58 through Nago, as indicated above.

The Cost

Nago Pineapple Park is open daily, 365 days a year, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entry is free to the Park and all facilities, gardens, fields and shops. Rides on the automated tour carts are ¥200.

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