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Okinawa scores big on cultural sites lists

Date Posted: 2006-05-27

Miyako-Jima City’s “Touri-ike” has been designated a place of beauty, and a natural monument for Japan.

The Touri-ike, pond of two lion kings, is steeped in legend at Irabu Island’s Shimoji- Airport area. It was originally identified by the government 33 years ago, along with Miyazaki Prefecture Gorge of Takashiho and Fukui Prefecture’s Toujin-bow. The announcements were made this week by Yoshiaki Ishizaka, chairman of the Japanese Cultural Council Cultural Heritage Workshop.

Ishizaka also designated the Kyan Seawall and Arasaki Seawall in Itoman City, and Iedunchi Garden in Naha City, to be places of beauty in Japan. The seawalls of Kyan and Arasaki are the sixth defined registered monuments in Japan.

The Touri-ike is actually a pair of round ponds, one big and one small. In actuality, they’re one, connected underwater through a cave. Divers love going down the 50 meters to explore the Ryukyu limestone, which has been worn and shaved away by the wave actions over the centuries. Water on the surface level is sweet, while deeper waters are salty because of the cave’s links to the ocean.

At sunset the waters turn a reddish color from its normal dark blue color seen at sunrise. Legends abound about the two ponds, with the best known involving a couple that had a child, and the mother subsequently dying.

The man remarried, but the stepmother hated the boy born by the first wife. She set out to kill him, taking her son and the stepson to the ponds. Her plan was to let the two boys sleep alongside the ponds, then kill the stepson.

Her son and the stepson exchanged places without her knowing it, and she killed her own son. She went into the water and died, too. The pond water changed to blood red, as she and her son transformed into snakes. Today, visitors look for the mysterious snakes.

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