Welcome to Motobu! This is a beautiful part of the island. It is a place where you can get away from the concrete and busy life in the South. There are many beaches around, many of which I will not give directions to or even mention, as you will see them when driving along! Motobu or rather Izumi is well known for the many unique coffee shops / restaurants. This area is also famous for Mikan (juicy little oranges!) picking in the winter months. It is also a popular destination for tourists and Okinawa people coming from the South, mainly because of the new additions to the aquarium. So be prepared for some heavy traffic over the weekends, and make a day of the area with a little bit of everything… a snorkel or swim at the beach, coffee in the hills, lunch at a restaurant, a walk around the aquarium, sunset dinner at Motobu Pizza place or sundowners on Sesoko beach. There is plenty to do and see. Have fun!
General Directions to Motobu
From the South:
Go through Nago along the R58. Follow the signs to the Expo park. You will see the option of either going on the R449 to the expo park or you can continue a little further until the next turn off onto the R84.
– OPTION 1 R449
At the fork on the R58, keep left and onto the R449. This is not a very scenic route to get to Motobu, as there is a massive concrete plant along the way with many trucks. The mountains are also rather bleak looking as they have been blasted apart! BUT, if you want to find a little beach and get to do some diving (ask the JET divers about specific sites) or snorkeling, then stick to this road. (It gets better after the concrete plant!) This route also takes you past MALMO’s bar, which is a popular little bar where JETS often hang out. (Refer to the NAGO guide) There are a few places to camp at some beaches, but these sights are rather close to the road, so I would not recommend it. The road to Sesoko Island also comes off this route, just before Motobu. Just after the Sesoko Bridge, you will come into Motobu Town. There is a MAX Value on the left.
– OPTION 2 R84
At the fork for the R449, keep going straight on the R58. Continue past the HOT SPAR, through 2 sets of traffic lights. At the third set, turn left off the R58 onto the R84. (You will see signs for Expo Park – this is what you should follow.) This turn is at a set of traffic lights with a toyshop on the opposite left corner and Okinawa tourist center on the opposite right corner. Continue along this road, past the HOT SPAR and A&W on the left, past a LAWSONS on your right, through this set of traffic lights (by the way, the little THAI coffee shop on the RIGHT diagonal corner is really great. You can buy some expensive Asian things here as well as enjoy a cuppa!) The road going to the right will take you back into Nago, and is the way you would come if from the North. Go past the FAMILY MART on your left, just up from there on the right is the Nago Pineapple Park. (A cheesy place to look around at pineapples and drink pineapple wine!) Carry on through the traffic lights where you will see the turn to MEIO University on the right. If you going to Motobu, just continue along this road following the signs to the Expo Park.
l From the North:
– Option 1 R71
You can take this way, if you are heading for the Expo Park from the North, otherwise take Option 2 if you want to get into Nago and explore coffee shops etc along the way to Motobu.
– Option 2 R?!! (then onto R84)
You are traveling along the R58. Go past the new JUSCO’s on the right. At the big intersection further along (Book Box on the left, Docomo phone on the right) turn right. You should pass the Max Value supermarket on your left. Continue along this road through 1 set of traffic lights. At the second set turn right onto R84. There is a LAWSONS on your left. (NOW, refer to OPTION 2 directions as if coming from the South!)
Cafes and Light Meals
This area has many unique, quaint and artistic coffee shops dotted around the hills. They are usually well off the main roads and finding them can be quite a mission. They are ideal places to go to restore the soul and take in the beautiful surroundings of Northern Okinawa. Look out for hand made, wooden, Kanji or Hirigana signboards, which usually direct you, otherwise ask a friendly local. They will know!
1. Yachimun Kisa Ten
This is a very well known little coffee shop tucked away in the Izumi Hills. (BBC did a documentary here!!) The surroundings are stunning, and it is a place you have to go to if visiting the North! Iced tea or coffee, hot cocoa, orange juice and acerola are on sale for around \400 (pricey!), and you can have an Okinawa pancake called Hiriachi as a light meal or their unique crepes. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 going towards Motobu. You have gone past Meio University (on the right) through those traffic lights. Continue on through the next set of traffic lights (you will see a little ice cream shop on the left corner – delicious ice cream by the way!) Continue on to the next set of traffic lights. This is a 3 way stop with the R123 going off to the right. Go slowly through the crossing. You will see a gas station on the right, and about 30m further on the left a Koban (police station.) There is a very small road on the left just before the pedestrian crossing. TURN LEFT HERE! Go up this little road until you get to a little cross road. You should see a sign on the left corner across the street which says ã‚„ã¡ã‚€ã‚“å‰èˆŽåº— 999m . Just follow that road for 999m and you should be there!
3. Artists coffee shop – Kaze no Miwa
The man who runs this coffee shop is a well-known artist who paints pictures of Okinawa in watercolors. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 going towards Motobu. Go through the 3-way traffic intersection, where R123 goes off to the right. Go over the pedestrian crossing. Drive about 1 km from here. You will pass 2 left turns. Take a left at the third one. (It is just after a little farm stall/house on the left!) Once you have taken this left, then keep left! You will pass another restaurant on the left called Chie Shokudo – (more mention of this in the restaurant guide NO 8.) Carry along this little road, winding your way up the hill. You should come to a rather obvious fork in the road. Keep right this time. (The left goes to another coffee shop NO. 4!) About 2 km from this fork is the coffee shop, tucked away on the right. There is a little place for parking right there at the entrance.
4. Coffee shop
This is yet another coffee shop with a good view over the Motobu valley. There are a few gifts you can buy in the attached shop. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
DIRECTIONS: Refer to above NO. 3 but take a left at the fork!
5. Aizome Indigo Dying
This little teahouse and studio offers herbal teas, iced drinks and light vegetarian meals, and a beautiful view. There is also a little shop inside which sells the locally made indigo tie dyed clothes and fabric. Alongside the coffee shop is the small factory/studio where you can watch the dying take place and have a lesson on how to dye fabric. I think you need to phone in advance to book a time if you want to learn how to dye.
DIRECTIONS. Refer to café guide NO 3. BUT don’t turn left off R84! Carry on a little further up this road (about 400M – if you get to the top of the hill you have gone to far!) On the right are 2 small roads. Take the 2nd one. On the corner is a farm stall. Turn right here. You might notice the Kanji wooden signboard with white writing on a blue plaque! This is the sign to Aizome. Follow these little signs; they should get you there. Just note that this coffee shop is at the top of a VERY steep road. This road is on the left about 1,5km after turning off the R84.
8. Utopia Farm
This place is a poor attempt at an American ranch! They have animals to look at, horses to ride, cows to milk. The reason I mention it is because it is at the top of a hill with great views and they have homemade ice cream, made from the milk of their Jersey cows. The ice cream is really good! You can apparently organize out rides (on horses) from here…?
DIRECTIONS: You are going to Motobu. At the traffic lights in Izumi, go right on R123, instead of straight. A grass basket shop will be on your left as you turn. Follow this road for 350m. Turn left here. You will see a sign board/ map showing you all the things you can do along that road., and one vertical sign with Utopia in Katakana and a little red arrow on the top of it. Follow this road for a bit (600m) and these signs until you see a bunch of signs on the right, next to the turn off. Take this right road. It is practically a hairpin turn, Continue up this steep, windy road, following obscure signboards along the way. The last stop on this road is it!
The restaurants are also very unique in the area. I have mentioned only a few which are the more popular ones. I would recommend the PIZZA SHOP (Kajinho) on the hill in Motobu as your first choice!
2. Seseragi Kisa (Curry Shop)
This place serves a real Indian curry with Nan bread and yogurt on the side. It is a good curry! The interior is small and quaint, and it is situated next to a little river. There is a beautiful rock garden you can walk up to if you pay an extra \100, just over the little walk bridge. It is quite beautiful! CLOSED ON MONDAYS & TUESDAYS
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the café guide to YACHIMUN kisa ten. But take note when you get to the little crossing with the Kanji signboard. Instead of going straight towards the coffee shop, go left. Follow this little road for about 350m until you see it on the left. It has a typical Japanese (not Okinawa) look to the roof, and is a cream colored, double story building.
8. Chie Shokudo
This little restaurant has 3 items on the menu: Miso shiru, Tofu soup and Okinawa soba. They are really good, compared with most soba shops. The miso soup is one of the best I have tasted and is a meal on its own as there is a lot in it! CLOSED ON MONDAYS
DIRECTIONS: Refer to café guide directions to coffee shop NO. 3.
9. Arakaki Zen Zai Shop
This place serves only one thing: zenzai. This is a Japanese sweet dish, served cold on shaved ice or hot in a sweet syrupy soup with Mochi (rice balls). It’s made from small red beans and black sugar. This place is famous for some reason and has been running for many years. There are invariably queues over weekends and it is usually sold out by early afternoon. If you want the real thing, then this is the place to get it!
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 coming to Motobu. In Motobu, you will pass a family Mart on the left. Carry on past this until the traffic lights at the intersection (\100 store on the left corner.) Turn right here and park somewhere there. The shop is right there on the roadside. It is on the right, opposite the market place. (You will see yellow curtains in the windows!)
10. Kishimoto SOBA
This is meant to be a famous soba shop because the soba is hand made. It is VERY small and busy over the weekends.
DIRECTIONS: It is opposite the zenzai shop (NO 9) tucked away on the side street.
This is the well-known place to head for when in Motobu. Only one type of pizza is served as well as a big salad that can easily be shared in a group of 4. Besides the pizza being good, it is located at the top of the hill, offering an excellent place to view the sunset over the Motobu Bay. You can clearly see Mina and Ie Islands as well as the town of Motobu. The building itself is also pretty special. You can sit inside on the floor around little wooden tables or out on the lawn in the sunshine. Be prepared to queue over weekends, but it is worth the wait. It opens at 12noon and closes at 7pm, but in summer you can have hang around for a while after 7pm, to take in the sunset.
DIRECTIONS: This is the tricky part. Be prepared to get a little lost! To follow these directions get yourself to Motubu, with the Motobu resort on your left and a set of traffic lights. Turn right here as if you were going to MOTOBU SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Go along this road. Go past the entrance to Motobu Senior High School and continue around the corner. Go up a little hill. As the road curves, you will see a little apartment block and a road going off to your right. You should see a Kanji sign board directing you to Kajinh0 (refer to the Kanji at the heading!) Follow these little roads and the signboards. They basically lead you there. You might come to a mini crossroad, where you will see a few cars pilled up on your left. Turn left up here and go past these cars, up the steep hill. Go passed a small sawmill (on your right) and up to the top of the hill. Carry on here for another 300m till you see the parking lot, on the left, just after some “hakas” on your right.
18. Herb (Vegetarian Restaurant)
This place is located off the beaten track. It is in very tranquil settings and you can sit on an outside deck looking at the view or inside the air-conditioned room. It serves light vegetarian meals as well as other non-alcoholic beverages. When visiting the Naklijin castle ruins, it is usually a nice place to stop in.
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 heading through Motobu. Just carry on this road following the signs to the Expo Park. At the intersection where you would turn left for the Expo Park, you continue straight. This road now becomes the 505. Keep on here for a while. You will eventually go through another set of traffic lights. Continue. Eventually you will come to a signboard, directing you to Nakijin Castle Ruins. Follow these signs. I.e., turn right, and go up the hill towards the castle. On the left is the entrance to the Nakijin Castle and just up on the right is a wooden sign with HERB written on it. Turn in here and follow this rough, little road. (for 1,2km)
19. Haru Natural Café
This is a beautiful artistic café on the hill with big windows and a beautiful view over the ocean. Curry, sandwiches, cakes and drinks are sold, as well as other arty things.
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 heading through Motobu. Just carry on this road following the signs to the Expo Park. At the intersection where you would turn left for the Expo Park, you continue straight. This road now becomes the 505. Keep on here for a while. You will eventually go through another set of traffic lights. Continue along this road until you see a rather obvious sign with HARU, Natural Café on the right. Just turn right there and wind your way up the hill. A little way up, you will see a huge fallen down tree trunk on the right where you can park your car.
20. Green Park Hotel and Golf course
You can play golf here, and there is a restaurant inside the hotel. It is okay, but if you were just visiting the area, I would try some of the more unique places!
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the map and follow the signs. It is easy to find!
23. Chinese Restaurant
This is in Nakijin. The food is really good, but it has no atmosphere!
DIRECTIONS: If you area coming from Motobu, then just carry along R505 towards Nakijin. You will eventually come to a LAWSONS on the right. The restaurant is before the Lawson’s and the little road on the right. You can park opposite the restaurant on the left side of the road. Things to see and do
15. Tropical Dream Center
This is part of the Expo Park. If you are really into flora, then you could take all morning here. There is a huge orchid house, with orchids from all over the world. There are also other displays of vegetation from different parts of the world. Entrance into the park area is free but into the dream center is \1000.
DIRECTIONS: You are on R84 heading through Motobu, following the signs to the Expo Park. When you get to the intersection with a FAMILY MART on the corner, turn left here (now on the R114) Follow the signs to EXPO PARK. You will eventually see a sign saying South Gate Entrance to Park. Don’t park here. If I were you, I would go all the way to the main entrance, or North entrance, and park there. That way, you are able to access the aquarium as well. On your way up the hill you will see the new “Umi no Eki” which means, “shop by the sea”, on the right. This has a nice gift shop and other food shops.
16. Expo Park / Aquarium
The new ultra big seawater tank and changes to the Aquarium have made it quite an impressive place to visit. You could make a day trip of this place, depending on what you want to see. Entrance is free into the park, but one has to pay to get into the aquarium. You can buy a one-day pass for \1700 or a year pass for \3400, which gives you access to all the facilities for the whole year. There are English guidebooks of the park at the information center in the park, as well as at the main gate entrance. There are a variety of different festivals and shows on here through out the year. You will have to listen out for those. Ask you teachers, they might know.
DIRECTIONS: Refer above to NO 15.
17. Nakijin Castle Ruins and Museum
As far as I am concerned, once you have seen one castle you have seen enough! Nakijin castle is pretty much similar to some of the others I have seen in the south. The only difference is that it is quite spectacular over cherry blossom season (end January). I suppose if you could understand more of the history, you would enjoy it more. The views from the castle are good, though. You can see Iheya and Izena islands, as well that brilliant blue sea.
…DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 heading through Motobu. Just carry on this road following the signs to the Expo Park. At the intersection where you would turn left for the Expo Park, you continue straight. This road now becomes the 505. Keep on here for a while. You will eventually go through another set of traffic lights. Continue. Eventually you will come to a signboard, directing you to Nakijin Castle Ruins. Follow these signs. I.e., turn right, and go up the hill towards the castle. On the left is the entrance to the Nakijin Castle.
24. Antique shop and cheap Kimonos
The owner built this whole castle like building himself. His wife goes regularly to Kyoto and picks up old Kimonos and sells them very cheaply here. You have to rummage through all of them in order to find something decent, but with a little cleaning up and work you can have a very cheap new looking Kimono. (I mean for as little as 200 yennies!) There is also other bits of antique furniture, some junk and bits around. IF you into digging and finding bits and pieces then this is the place for you!
DIRECTIONS: You are on the R84 heading for Motobu. You have gone up and down the Izumi pass, and are heading into Motobu town. Go past the HOT SPAR on your right. Continue through one set of traffic lights. At the second set, take a right (onto the R115). Go over the bridge. On the left is Motobu Junior High School, carry on this road for about 2km. You will see a big white clump of buildings on the hill on the right with typical Okinawa style red, concrete roofs and many shisas (little lions) all around. This is it!
25. BG resort – jet ski/banana boat / kayaking / indoor swimming
If you are into marine sports then this is the place to go. You can go on various rides on a jet skis or banana boat. You can also rent a kayak, go for a ride in a glass bottomed boat and sail. There is also an indoor pool if you want to stick to fresh water and avoid the UV rays!
DIRECTIONS: You are on the 84 heading for the Expo Park. At the FAMILY MART on the left corner at the traffic lights, go left, as if you were going towards the Expo Park. Carry along this road until you get to the first road on your left. Turn left here and you will see the entrance to this resort about 400m further.
26. Motobu Gym
If you are in the mood for a little indoor exercise, then why not try out the new Motobu Gym. I was rather disappointed at the small size of the work out and weights room, but at least their equipment is up to date! You can also rent badminton / tennis rackets and knock around inside the sports hall. For locals, gym access is \105 per person, and for those out side of Motobu, it is \250. Of course, it costs more for rental of equipment.
I .To Mina Island – TOGUCHI PORT
TIMES: contact the local Motobu Junior High School ALT
II. To Ie Island – MOTOBU PORT
TIMES: Contact the Ie Island ALT
III. To Izena / Iheya Islands – UNTEN PORT
TIMES: ASK the local ALT on IHEYA / IZENA islands
DIRECTIONS: You are in Nakijin on the R505. Just after the one and only convenience store, LAWSONS, in Nakijin is an intersection. There will be a post office on your left hand side. You will also see a sign directing you to UNTEN Port. Turn left here. Go along this road until you get to a T-junction. Turn left again. As the road approaches the corner, you have the option of going straight or continuing around the corner. Straight takes you to the Nakijin Sports center and right takes you to UNTEN Port.
Good Views/ Camping / Picnic places!
A. Mt Yaedake and the Cherry Blossom festival (C) (End January)
This mountain is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. The whole road from top to bottom is lined with cherry trees, and lanterns are lit up in the trees at night . Half way up the hill is a park area where the 2-week festival is usually held. Out of season it is still beautiful, and there is a good view of Motobu town as well as Ie, Sesoko and Mina Islands.
DIRECTIONS: You are on the 84 heading for Motobu. You would have passed the HOT SPAR on your right. Just after that, is a sign that says Mt Yaedake. Turn left up there. This is the start of the cherry blossom route.
B Sesoko Beach and Camp Site and Golf course
This beach is long so you can get away from people who tend to flock there over weekends. In the summer months you have to pay to park your car, but you can get away with it, sometimes, by parking in the golf parking lot (just avoid the golfers when they see you with snorkel and goggles and no clubs!) or in the area that is not a designated parking area. This beach is really good for watching a sunset and having an evening BBQ. Especially on the far right hand side, there are some caves and it is well protected from wind, rain and sunshine. The snorkeling is not great, and the fish scarce, but at least the beach is cleaner than most.
There is another beach under the bridge, which is free and still very good for swimming. The beach is smaller but still clean.
DIRECTIONS: If you are coming along the 449 you will see the sign for Sesoko Island. If you are on the 84, then go through Motobu, and head for the big Motobu Bridge. Go over the bridge, and you will see Sesoko Island and the bridge connecting it to the mainland.
Cross over onto Sesoko Island. You will notice a little beach below the bridge, that is the first one which is free. To get to the other beach, keep going straight along this road. Follow the signs to the golf course.
D Annual Fireworks display
Every year in July (New JETS just miss it, but try it out at the end of the first year), there is a massive fireworks display near the Expo Park. It is pretty impressive. They have some BIG, beautiful, very loud fireworks. There is also a festival on that night. The only thing is that all of Okinawa comes to see it, so the traffic is generally hectic. Rather stay up in the area, or else, plan to get up to Motobu early in the morning, and leave late that night.
DIRECTIONS: Head for the Expo Park and park somewhere there! You will be able to follow the crowds. If you get there about 2 hours before, it may take you a good walk from where you park! Take a picnic, some sundowner drinks, or else you can buy the festival food and expensive drinks!
E. Emerald beach / Snorkeling spot / picnic area
IF you are in the area to see the Expo Park, then it might be quite nice to have a swim at the popular Emerald beach (that is if you want to join all the other tourists.) Otherwise to get some better snorkeling and less crowded areas, then walk down the concrete walkway to the point. Right there is a safe pool, which has some good snorkeling. There is also a picnic area and a place for good sunsets.
DIRECTIONS: Follow those to Expo Park; you will see information about emerald beach in the Brochure. It is on the far right end of the park.
F. Fukugi Trees
Fukugi trees are known for their strength and wind breaking abilities in typhoons. IT is meant to be a great sight seeing spot for tourists but I don’t quite know why! So, I just mentioned it anyway! But don’t go out of your way to see them!