I haven’t been venturing out much. Like many places, COVID has been on the rise out in town. Okinawa is a tourist destination for mainland Japan, much like Hawaii. So even though Japanese do wear masks, I have opted on the side of caution and have just stayed home.
Staying home has never been a problem for me. As an introvert, I prefer being alone than to be in public with strangers. Also, my home has all sorts of fun activities, including books, jigsaw puzzles, and crafts. You will never hear me say that I’m bored.
But Wednesday was a U.S. holiday but not a Japanese holiday. Since most locals were working, I decided to take a day trip to Yomitan. And while there were people out and about, there weren’t many and it was easy to keep my distance.
Yomitan, on the western coast of central Okinawa Island, is approximately 16 kilometers north of where I live. Yomitan is known for its incredible beaches and abundant nature. If it wasn’t for the commute, I would have liked to live in Yomitan.
In addition to the gorgeous beaches, Yomitan has several attractions—the Yomitan Pottery Village, Zakimi Castle Ruins, and the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse.
Yomitan Pottery Village looks just like a residential area, which it is, just filled with artists. Not every studio was open, but most were. I had a lovely time browsing and found so many beautiful pottery pieces. I can’t show what I bought because most will be gifts.
After I spent all my yen at the Pottery Village, I headed to the Zakimi Castle Ruins, which is a Ryūkyūan gusuku (castle or fortress). The castle was built between 1416 and 1422 by a Ryūkyūan general. Okinawa is part of the Ryūkyū Islands, which were unified as the Ryūkyū Kingdom in 1429 until 1879.
While the castle is in ruins, the walls and foundations have been restored. In 2000, Zakimi Castle was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a part of the Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. Read more about the castle here.
The views from the castle walls are stunning.
From the castle, I then headed toward Cape Zanpa, which has a 30-meter tall lighthouse. As I walked from the parking area to the lighthouse, I saw a statue of a man pointing towards the sea. After I got home, I learned the statue honors Taiki, the first man from Okinawa to be sent to Ming China in 1372 to establish tribute trade.
The lighthouse sits on the point of the Cape. And for 300 yen, you can climb its 99 stairs to the top for magnificent views, which I did. As I climbed (and counted), I estimated the diameter of the stairwell to be maybe 10-12 feet.
I only met one couple coming down the lighthouse stairs as I went up. So I had the top of the lighthouse to myself. The day was super windy as the video below will attest, and I almost lost my hat a couple of times. But the view was totally worth it.
Turn down your sound before watching the video as the wind is really loud.
The Cape also has a couple of stunning beaches and a food bus that serves Blue Seal, the ice cream of Okinawa. I had Ube (purple yam), also known as beniimo in Okinawa. I don’t know how to describe it. Some liken it to a cross between vanilla and pistachio, with hints of coconut mixed in. Whatever the flavor, it was pretty yummy.
Overall, a fun day trip. The views were incredible and I got to mark a few more items off my Okinawa to see list. Plus, any day that ends in ice cream is a good day.