So you hung out in Naha, visited Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, and explored Kouri Island. But you’re not done yet! Take a close look at a map of Okinawa. Do you see that there are still lots of places you haven’t been?
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and Kouri Island are both located in the Okinawa main island’s northern area. But the island extends much farther north beyond those two destinations. The northern tip of the island is called Cape Hedo. It’s where you can see the sun rise and set over the ocean. My name is Umi, and editor, and this time I headed towards Kunigami village, the northernmost village on the main island, and eventually to Cape Hedo.
You have to go to Nago first to get to Kunigami village. Take Okinawa Airport Shuttle from the airport and get off at Nago Shiyakusho Mae (Nago City Hall). Then transfer to the local bus #67 and head north.
I stayed in Nago one night, then got on a bus the following morning.
The bus runs through a mountainous area soon after departing Nago. Local buses are a part of everyday life in this area, but tourists are always welcome, and some buses have displays that show the name of the next stop in foreign languages, including English, Chinese, and Korean.
(The display, as shown in the image, is available in English, Chinese, and Korean.)
After going through the mountains and sugar cane fields, the bus will turn right at a T intersection in the Inamine area, and the vast ocean will appear on your left.
On a sunny day, it feels as if the bus is running on the beautiful blue ocean, where the borderline between the sky and the ocean gets blurred.
It was a truly breathtaking scenery. I almost dropped my camera because I hurried to get it out from my bag to capture the moment. But the bus runs along the water for a while, so you’ll have plenty of time to take pictures.
You’ll see Kouri Island, Kouri Ohashi Bridge, and Nakijin village in the distance. Ie Island will come into view later, too.
The bus ride from Nago to Hentona Bus Terminal is about an hour. It flies by when you’re looking at the dazzling water.
If you get off the bus at Okuma Beach Iriguchi (Okuma Beach Entrance), which is a few stops before the final destination, you’ll see Michi no Eki Yuiyui Kunigami right in front of you.
I’ve come all the way to the northern end of Okinawa main island! It’s exciting to be greeted by a Yanbaru Kuina sign. A pair of vicious-looking shisa stands at the entrance to Yuiyui Kunigami.
You’ll be greeted by a fluffly Yanbaru Kuina as soon as you enter the building. Kunigami village is known as a place where you can come across Yanbaru Kuina. After being greeted by the bird multiple times, I started to really want to see a real Yanbaru Kuina.
A wide variety of items made in Kunigami line at Michi no Eki Yuiyui Kunigami. Apparently, quite a bit of people travel a long distance to purchase Kunigami Doughnuts.
Kunigami is the birth place of an Okinawan folk song called Kunjan Sabakui. Folk music remains popular among the locals, which you can tell from the fact that the store sells sanshin (Okinawan string instrument). I did not expect to see sanshin at a Michi no Eki!
I was starving. I decided to go to Waya, a restaurant at the Michi no Eki that specializes in inobuta. Inobuta is another Kunigami specialty.
Okinawan wild boars are smaller than those on mainland Japan. A pig farmer was taken by its unique flavor and spent years developing inobuta, a cross between Okinawan wild boar and pig. Apparently, you cannot get it anywhere else!
I had a hard time deciding what to eat, but finally ordered an inobuta Okinawa soba (¥800), a popular dish. I sneaked a glance at other tables; many others were eating the same dish!
Inobuta’s umami, bean sprouts, and other vegetables complement each other so well, so much so that I downed this huge pile of food.
Just an FYI; it does take a little bit of technique to eat this dish without making a big mess!
Yanbaru 3 Village Tourist Information Center is located in the same compound as Michi no Eki Yuiyui Kunigami.
Kunigami Village Tourist Association is in the same building, so you can also get some tourist information there.
Kunigami village is filled with rich nature—both in the mountains and in the ocean, which also brings about some dangers.
If you get lost in a mountaneous area in tropical Okinawa, often times you will have a difficult time contacting others because the cellular reception is bad in many areas. The number of people who get lost in the mountains has been increasing in recent years.
There aren’t any beaches that are managed for swimming purposes other than the ones owned by hotel resorts. You can basically swim anywhere, but some spots have strong rip currents. If you enter the water without knowing about it, you could potentiallly be swept out far into the ocean.
The rich nature makes Kunigami village a truly attractive destination, but I do recommend that you do some research at your lodging facility or at a tourist association in order to have 120% satisfaction in your trip.
The Tourist Information Center has terrace seating. The shops there serve sata andagi (Okinawan doughnut), udon noodle bowl, zenzai (Okinawan shaved ice with red beans), and many others. They have a café, too.
Have a meal or just get some dessert to charge up before heading out on an adventure.
There’s also a convenience store nearby.
By the way, there are Yanbaru Kuina-themed designs and signs here and there, in obscure locations. These adorable figures put a smile on my face every time I stumbled upon them.
You can also rent a bike at the Tourist Association.
The next article will be about exploring the surrounding area with a rented bike from the Tourist Association.
◇To get to Kunigami village◇
Take Okinawa Airport Shuttle from Naha to Nago Shiyakusho Mae (Nago City Hall).
Once in Nago, take 67 Hentona Line of Ryukyu Bus/Okinawa Bus (joint operation) bound for Hentona Bus Terminal. The bus stop closest to Nago Shiyakusho Mae (Nago City Hall) is the bus stop called Hokubu Godo Chosha Mae (Northern Area Government Building).
If you’re going to stay in the Nago area the night before, you could also look up the bus stop closest to you on Busnavi Okinawa. The easiest way to catch a bus is to board the first bus of the day that departs Nago Bus Terminal. Buses come once or twice every hour, so I recommend that you look up the schedule ahead of time.
Go to their website or use their app to check routes, timetables, and location of bus stops for local bus services. Available in English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Korean.
Okinawa Airport Shuttle
An express bus that connects Naha Airport and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in 2.5 hours.
Going from Naha Airport to Nago Shiyakusho Mae (Nago City Hall) takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Reservations can be made on the website.
Kunigami Village Tourist Association
※The content of the article is current as of late September 2018. It is subject to change without notice.