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Murasaki Mura opens doors to hands-on experiences, history

Date Posted: 2009-07-23

Murasaki Mura was once the real life set for a popular Japanese television drama about the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 16th and 17th century. Today it’s a link to the past, a living, breathing opportunity for visitors to step back in time and experience a bit of Okinawa nostalgia.

The 15,000 square meter theme park in Yomitan Village on the central west coast of Okinawa’s main island is a one-stop opportunity for visitors to experience the customs and culture of the colorful Ryukyu Kingdom, and also to get hands-on with arts and crafts ranging from pottery to glassware to cooking. Basically, it’s the ideal place to experience a bit of all things Okinawan, and to take home handicrafts, photographs and memories.

Murasaki Mura came to life in 1992 as a village created for Japanese NHK television’s series Ryukyu no Kaze (Wind of the Ryukyus) that aired in 1993. The realistic, true-to-life reconstruction of buildings of Okinawa in the 1500’s was enough to stir local entrepreneurs to preserve the village and use it to educate visitors on Okinawa’s vibrant past. From its beginning as a cultural theme park, Murasaki Mura has promoted not only the historical past from the Ryukyu Kingdom, but introduced tens of thousands to local island arts and crafts.

There are currently 32 small factories where visitors can try their hand at more than 100 different Okinawa arts and crafts, including making brown sugar, Ryukyu glass, Yachimun pottery, indigo dyeing, can-can wind chimes, sanshin construction and lessons, seashell and coral wind chimes, Hanaori and Minsaori weaving, candle art and Okinawa cooking.

Hand made sausage is one of the big August do-it-yourself classes. The classes at 1 p.m. daily runs every day throughout the month. The admission fee is ¥1,000. Each participant must bring his/her own apron. While adults deal with sausage, children under 12 have an opportunity to make pet rockets. Each child is to bring his/her own 1.5 liter pet bottle for the weekends-only classes. Admission fee is ¥50. Children also have an opportunity every Saturday in August at 1 p.m. to learn how to make brown sugar. Admission fee is ¥1,500.

Murasaki Mura will also be having Quiz Bingo each Saturday during August. The quiz begins at 3 pm., with admission fee ¥300. For visitors not interested in working or answering questions, the grounds themselves are an adventure unto themselves. Wander through the ancient town, envisioning what life must have been like hundreds of years ago. There’s a petting zoo with chickens, roosters and rabbits, all sure fire hits for the children.

Visitors often find themselves stimulated after taking in the sites, and suddenly decide it’s time to give a shot at making a shishi dog, an original lamp of Ryukyu glass, or shell watch, clay candles, or wood handcrafts.

A visit to Murasaki Mura is not difficult, beginning with a drive north on Highway 58 past Kadena Circle toward Yomitan Village. Turn left at the Iramina intersection onto Route 6, where a Lawson’s convenience store is on the left. Continue straight past Torii Station, and when Route 6 splits right and left, take the left fork. Once the road splits, turn left toward the ocean, and then turn right. About 700 meters further along, you’ll be right next to Murasaki Mura, where free parking is available. [You’ll know you went too far if you wind up at the Alivila Hotel].

Admission to Murasaki Mura is ¥500 for adults, ¥400 for youngsters 12~18, and ¥300 for kids 5~12. There’s a restaurant on the Murasaki Mura grounds, and yen is also needed to participate in activities and to make purchases at the shops and vendors. The park is open daily 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m., with last entry at 5:30 p.m. Don’t forget the cameras, AND plenty of batteries.

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