1. Mt. Tanodake
This place has a great view of Yagaji bay, Motobu, Ogimi-son and Higashi-son. To get here, drive through Nago (about 5 min past JUSCO on 58) and look for the sign above the road just before a mushroom shaped bus stop (on the left)(this turn is just 100meters before the turn off for Hwy 505 to Nakijin) and turn right at that traffic light. After turning right, follow that road as it winds up the mountain. At the top is a hotel/coffee shop/ restaurant and observation decks. There are also cabins for camping. Enjoy!
2. Oshitai/syashikumaru coffee house.
nice coffee house that serves little pizzas, cakes, coffee and micro beers. It is run by a cool couple who also have a small array of local handicrafts for sale. The setting is amidst fields and feels remote. Stop in for a drink. To get there turn right on highway 14 in the town of Genka. Follow that highway for about 8 KM (approximate) You will come the top of the mountains and then start going down. Soon there after is a road on the right. There is a little hand painted sign. so turn right there and proceed about 3to5km. There should then be a little sign that tells you to turn again. This time left on a dirt road that takes you Meters to the coffee house.
Go north past the town of Genka . You will cross a big elevated bridge that curves to the right as you drive across it. It is called Heinan bridge (å¹³å—æ©‹) Immediately where the bridge ends, turn right. Follow this road for approx. 200M. There will be a fork. Take the left fork and follow the river, which will be on your right side. Drive 2.3KM, you will have crossed a bridge, seen another fork in the road and taken the right fork to stay by the river. After the 2.3Km, you will be at a little dirt parking area on the right across from a gray cinderblock wall on the left. You can see the river. From here walk up river 20-25 min and you’ll arrive at the falls. They are gorgeous. There are no sidewalks, it is all wild. River rocks are slippery. Be careful!
This town hosts a “Bashofu” weaving studio. You can see bashofu being done. There is a sign on Highway 58 to get there. Turn right and then take the next immediate right. The entrance to the Bashofu studio is about 1Km down that road on the right side. There is a sign there showing where to turn. Turn right at the sign and it is 20M up that road.
Also here is a coffee house called koharuya. it has a nice atmosphere good food and coffee and the lady who runs it is very environmentally sound and active in fighting dams. She also leads bird watching trips so you can ask her about that club and learn of Okinawan birds too. She has many books on nature in her shop. I would recommend this place for a brief rest and to learn of other wonderful things in the northern area. To get there turn right at the Bashofu sign on Highway 58. Then take your next immediate right and go straight down that street. After 1800 Meters (but look all the way) you should see a sign written in kanji. Turn right here and follow it to the end(about 200M). You’ll see the coffee house on your left. It looks like a log house. There is also another small waterfall farther down that road. The waterfall is 5 minutes walk down the road. It is small, but good to listen to and experience.
This town is where I spent my JET time. It is a great place. It has many restaurants, a video store, a gas station, Post office, grocery stores, photo developing and shopping in the small business district.
Kanpachi restaurant located immediately before the first tunnel you come to on your journey. The restaurant is on the right hand side. It has good tenpura teishouku (sets) and also fish, sushi and beer, soup etc.
House of Taste
This place serves Okonomiyaki (Okinawan/Japanese Omelet). It is GOOD! Also, fish, OSTRITCH mmmm! Beer, Vegetables, cow tongue, miso ae and more. You cook on a table in front of you. It is always popular and delicious. Coming from the south, turn Left at the Hentona Family Mart intersection. Go straight for 3KM until you come to another intersection with a traffic light. Then turn Left. GO 500m and on the right you will see the sign in English and Japanese. It is on the corner by a gym and a sports field. They have an English menu. During the summer, only open from 12 – 2 and 6 – midnight
This is the local Chinese restaurant. It is good food. It is located towards the south of Hentona. Coming from the North, pass Family mart on your right (in Hentona) keep going maybe 500 Meters. On your right hand side is written like that.
There are other restaurants too, but these are my favorites. Also the JAL private resort has good food, expensive, but sometimes has good buffet deals.
Things to do
This is a great waterfall with a path that leads up to it. It takes maybe 1HR to arrive at the waterfall. It is a fun hike. To get here, heading North on 58, Turn right at the intersection with family mart in Hentona. Go straight. Then turn right off this road after about 500M. There is a sign too for Hiji waterfall. After you turn Right, and follow it around a left hand corner, you should be on a road with the Hiji river on your Right. Go straight on this road until the very end. Park here and pay 300yen to get in. Then walk up and swim and play. It is a gorgeous trip. Open from 9 – 5
6. Mt Yonaha dake
This is a great hike! All in wilderness. At the top there are ladders to climb above the trees and check out the view. To get here headed N. on 58, turn right just before Kanpachi restaurant. It is the last Right turn before the first tunnel you come to. There is a sign for Forest Park. There is a small stream going under hwy 58 and the right turn is IMMEDIATELY after the stream. After turning, take your next immediate left on a street about 20Meters down the road. Follow this street for 20M and turn left again. You should now be going up a steep hill. Follow this hill up for about 6KM. There are other turn offs so stay on the main road. After 2KM You will come to SHINRIN KOEN forest Park. This area also has interesting hiking, camping and grounds to enjoy. After about 3.5Km from Hentona you will come to a fork in the road. Go Left. Keep going straight until the next fork in the road. It will come in approximately 2KM. This road is called OKUNI RINDO‚Turn right and park just along the road there. You can see a little dirt road headed into the forest there. Walk down that road and follow the signs for Yonaha dake. It takes a few Hours to do this hike, but is a great way to see the wilderness of Okinawa. The area is all protected as a Wild life area, so expect to see Birds, Turtles, Snakes*, Bugs and Trees. Enjoy your hike. Pay attention to the signs and the path.
This is the road that runs in front of Yonaha dake (see above) It runs from Oogimi- son off route 331 near the Higashi son border all the way to Oku. There are many spurs that come down to route 58 and to route 70 on the East side of Kunigami. Driving along this road will yield a wealth of natural views, Jungle scenery and little secrets that you will find on the way if you care to look. There are natural springs that gush sweet clean water and is quite famous Just beside the road. I challenge you to find them. One place is 1KM from the trail head for Mt Yonaha Dake. Turning right at that intersection brings you to the springs on your left. They flow from black hoses and are safe to drink. 3 years, and no illness for me. On the map these lines look gray. The main Okuni rindo is a fat gray line on the map and North of Highway 2 it continues but is drawn on the map in thin gray lines. I recommend driving all over here as it is fun and adventuresome.
Info on Snakes
There are many types of snakes in Okinawa. 2 are poisonous and belong to the Habu genus. They have diamond shaped heads and are brown green in color. They are not vicious and do not want to bite you. Like all snakes they can feel the vibrations in the earth from foot steps and will wander off to avoid you because you are too big to eat! In tall grass etc, walk slowly and stomp your feet and you’ll have no problems. I have seen the snakes, but they are hard to see. They are primarily nocturnal and active in the warm seasons from about late March to October. While walking, watch your step, don’t go crashing off through the forest and if you see one, let it wander away. Snakes only bite because they feel threatened. Give them peace and they will leave you alone too.
If Bitten: Remain as calm as possible. If you have a venom extractor (the kind that come in the yellow box sold as “Sawyer Extractor”) immediately suck out the venom with that. DO NOT USE YOUR MOUTH TO SUCK and apply a pressure equivalent to what you would use to wrap a sprain to the affected area. Check to insure there are pulses present after wrapping. DO NOT USE A TOURNEQUET as this may result in loss of the limb. Let the circulation continue keeping the wound below heart level and Seek Medical attention immediately(call 119). If you can try to get a look at the snake so as to identify it for medical authorities. Don’t try to kill the snake as it may bite you too, (this is the #1 cause of snakebites-people chasing snakes)
Although painful, in healthy adults the bites are rarely fatal. Primary deaths are in the aged and young. So fear not. And hike on. A More detailed explanation of snakebite do’s and don’ts can be found at
Many Okinawans are afraid of the Habu and will tell you stories to scare you. PAY THEM LITTLE MIND and see the beautiful woods. Just be aware and walk with care.
7. CAPE HEDO (HEDO MISAKI)
This is a wonderful place for eating, surfing, rock climbing and just chilling.
On my map, the star is a little too far to the West, so don’t be fooled. Follow Hwy 58 to the North through a long tunnel (about 1.2KM long) keep going until you see the sign to turn left for cape Hedo. The turn off is about 2KM after the tunnel. After turning Left, go straight down that road until the end. Here is a place of soba restaurants and a nice restaurant with tenpura and sushi etc. I recommend this restaurant. It has a good view. This is the farthest northern point on Okinawa mainland. You can see Yoron island to the north. It is the farthest south island of Kagoshima-ken island chain. (you can take a ferry to Yoron from Motobu port and it is a good trip!) There is a large Yambarukuina bird that you can go inside to get view. When you are at Hedo turn with your back to the Ocean and look to the left at the East coast to see it. Look at the small map to see how to get to the bird.
The beach Uza hama is to the East of the monument and restaurants. To get here you would after turning off Hwy 58 to Hedo make your next possible right. Then go straight. The road will descend down to the beach, providing a spectacular view of the reef and ocean! At the bottom you can park and walk out on the beach. Surfers hang on the Right side as you face the ocean just to the left of a big rock in the sea. High tide either side by 1to1.5 Hours is good surfing. Shallow waters make it more dangerous for injury on the reef outside these time periods.
On the extreme left is the climber’s paradise. Bolted routes are great!!! The bolted route on the left is the easiest and is about a 5.8 the rest are 5.10 and up. It is the most beautiful place to climb.
You can dive here, but advanced divers only. Beware of currents here and if possible try to dive on an Incoming tide (From low tide to High tide) doing the opposite makes potential for getting swept out to sea or being pinned due to rip currents* in underwater tunnels. Diving is when the sea is calm which is in the summer when the winds come from the south and wave action low.
- If caught in a rip current,
- RELAX, RELAX the rip is formed by a channel of water moving back out to sea like a river. It is NOT the width of the whole ocean. Since it is narrow you can swim out of it. Don’t try to swim straight in to shore as you wont make it.(you’ll fight the current and tire out)
- Set a course perpendicular to the current, swimming parallel to or 45 degrees to the beach. You will then be able to clear the river like rip current and be able to get back onto shore.
Rips are most common from High tide to Low tide as the seawater drains away and when there are waves, which supply lots of water on top of the reef shelf that then has to drain back to the sea.
There are some beautiful Coast rock formations from 3 million year old petrified coral near Hedo. Coming from the south on the 58, If you turn Right, across from Cape Hedo (away the ocean) at the cape Hedo turnoff point and follow the road up a hill taking the next possible left and following that road up the hill until you come to a parking lot at the top, you will be at the entrance for this place. It is a beautiful area where shrubbery has been selectively cleared from the jungle to enhance the beauty of the rocks. There is an easy hiking course part is a wooden boardwalk. Entrance is about 800 yen, which includes the short bus ride to the trails. I recommend this hike as it has a good view of Hedo cape and is atop some of the most impressive cliff faces on the island. Very impressive! Hours 9-5
Oku is a very remote town. It has a store and a gas station open until 7PM in summer and 6PM in winter. It is beautiful. It has a small museum in town next to the river that shows traditional Oku Culture. It is worth a peek. It has a beautiful port and a good drive up through the tea fields in the mountains. Keep going to just before the Bridge over the Oku River on HWY 58. Then turn left. Follow the road straight and then, by the port take the fork that goes up and to the left. Keep climbing. Again the road forks. The right fork goes to Oku beach. A nice beach, but watch for rip currents! The left fork keeps climbing. If you keep going you will pass some tea fields. Tea plant looks like a shrub/bush. The road keeps going and eventually will lead you back to hwy 58 closer to Cape Hedo. Turn right to go to Hedo, left to go back to Oku. Enjoy.
Ada is a great town too. To get here, go north on 58 to HWY 2, and then go right. Follow Hwy 2 to the end, about 16KM. Turn left for Ada, and go maybe 2KM. On the left you see the Sidmouth inn. (A good place for Vietnamese food and a place to stay too (rooms about 6000yen/night). Just past the Sidmouth, turn right and go down the hill. YOU will then come to Ada. In Ada there is kayaking opportunities. Mrã€‚ Nakane (ä»²æ ¹) is a great man who runs a little eco tourism business there in town. You can rent sea kayaks and go to a waterfall and Adaka jima, a gorgeous small island about 1km paddle. Call him to make an appointment (he only speaks Japanese)
Phone# cell 090-4347-8453
Prices are about 1500yen per person per day. But check with him for absolute certainty. If you mention you are an ALT he will know who you are and what you are up to. I taught his kids in Ada school and he is a great man.
To find his house, once you get down the big hill descending to Ada, turn right at the first possible right. Then make an immediate left. You will see a white building on the left with a small field. Drive past this building and one street intersection. The second house across from the intersection on your right is his house. His garage is filled with green sea kayaks.
Ada store is just down the street that intersects with Nakane san’s house. If you get lost, mention his name and people will know him.
Ada Light House, if you keep driving on the same road that you came down the hill on, and turn left when it comes to a T in the center of Ada town, go up the hill and then start going down. Descend for maybe 200Meters and take a small road on your right. It will wind up and eventually end under a light house and have a view of Adaka Jima and the sea! It is spectacular!!!!
To get here, go North on 58 to HWY 2, then go right. Follow Hwy 2 to the end, about 16KM. Turn right for Aha, and go maybe 5KM to the town.
Aha is another remote town with a gas station and a little store. It is the last outpost before a LONG drive down the beautiful and wild East side of Yanbaru. I would highly recommend exploring down this road.
Tanagagumuino (Also known as Ada falls)is an Okinawan word and a waterfall. “Tanaga” and “Gumui” means “shrimp” and “deep pool” respectively, in Okinawan dialect. In the good old days you could take the shrimp by the bucket from this place. There is a sign to turn right maybe 1.5KM before the start of Aha town. Turn right here and follow the road up to a little parking area. Park here. (I have heard from my predecessor that valuables are at risk here but never had a problem. Leave valuables in your trunk for a precaution.) There is a rope-assisted descent down to the waterfall and lake. Also there is a big TARZAN style rope swing that you can swing to your monkey heart content. People say that the water is too cold and causes people heart attacks. It is rampant blasphemy and should be disregarded. However, to the left of the waterfall you can climb up and jump off, BUT BE CAREFUL. Where the waterfall is, there are submerged rocks. If you jump there you’ll get hurt. Facing the waterfall, about 20 meters from the waterfall on the left is a safe place to jump. Always check first though to make sure its safe. You can go up river from here for hours and also down. It is a wilderness area and you can feel its pristine quality as you enter the cool water. Go north on the 58, and take a right on the rt 2, then right at the 70, go straight until you see overhead large white sign. It says Tanagagumuino in both Romanji and Hiragana. Take right at the sign, and park. The path to the waterfall is next to a sign in the parking area with a lot of Japanese writing on it.
Takae is the Northern city in Higashi-son. You can continue to here from Aha or come up by turning left (north) after you come off Hwy 331 and drive until you arrive here. There is an experimental ocean water electricity generating pump station here. If you turn to the East from the main highway where the sign for the pump station is, you can get to a waterfall and a coffee house/glass studio(tel# 0980-43-2766) (glass art “AI”). The pump station is called kaisuihatsudensho. I think the kanji is on the sign, it is a smallish sign and it is blue. If you ask directions to that place, it will get you there. (also can ask directions for Takae elementary school (shougakko) Once you make the turn follow that road for a while. You will go down a steep hill. On the left there is a small place to park a car and you can walk down to a waterfall. If you keep driving straight and go over a small bridge, you will come to a little coffee house and glass studio which is up a driveway on the left side of the road. You can see the ocean well from here. Blowing glass takes a 24 hour advance reservation. Coffee is delicious w/o reservation. View overlooks the sea and it is impressive.
Here is a great place for Mangrove watching. If you have a kayak, you can go amidst the mangroves at a higher tide and see this pristine area. Mangroves are an incredibly important part of costal ecology and area host to a myriad of creatures. If you don’t have a kayak, you can still look at the Mangroves. They are beautiful. To get here either follow highway 331 to Arume and turn right (south) and go until you come to the mangroves by a big river. If you come by Highway 14, then you will want to turn left at hwy 331 on the coast and follow it until you come to the River and the mangroves. Following highway 331 back to Nago is an interesting and long drive. The scenery is beautiful and I’d recommend that you take the time to see it before your brief tour here is over.
Things to check out in Higashi:
Azalea Festival: The azalea festival, also called Tsutsuji Matsuri is held from around March 4 – 21 each year and is beautiful. There are many paths to walk around lined with all different colored azaleas. Admission is 200yen. To get there take the 58 north and after Nago take a right on the 331. Take a left on the 70 and go a few km. Take a left up the big hill; it will be decorated with flags for the festival and all the other cars will be turning there too.
Higashi Rose Garden – I went there once with my Kocho sensei, but I am not sure how we got there. I’ll have to ask them for directions. It was 500yen, and very beautiful. They had so many different types and colors of sweet smelling roses. Probably isn’t open year round. I will have to check out their schedule
Ostrich farm (this is in Higashi) we found it one time, but the owner was out of town and it was closed. I haven’t had a chance to go back yet and check it out. Apparently you can ride the ostriches, and they also have a little café that sells ostrich eggs and ostrich burgers.
Ogimi visitor center. – to get there, drive north on the 58. It will be on your right, there is a tall green green sign with a elf-child that has red hair. Pull into the big parking lot. There is a small waterfall there, fruits and vegetables for sale, and a little restaurant. The restaurant on the 2nd floor has a nice view. You can sit outside at the stools on the balcony and overlook the ocean. They have a variety of food, cakes, and coffee. They even have Corona and Heineken for under 300yen. I am almost finished translating their English menu too.