Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Northern Okinawa: Kouri Beach and Yuiyuikunigami Rest Area

Finally finishing up my Okinawa recap (almost two months after the actual trip) with the last two places that we visited, both located in the Northern area of Okinawa. For the masterpost click here.

Kouri Island Beach
While this wasn't a "beach trip", I really wanted to visit at least one beach. From what I could find on Google, Kouri Island Beach was supposed to be a really beautiful place to visit.

And it was!


The drive on Kouri bridge was amazing! The views are fantastic and I can see why it's a tourist landmark.

Parking here will cost money (if you want to park near the beach). The place where we parked also had changing areas, a shower area, and floats and parasols for rental.


After we parked, we headed back to the bridge for a few shots. The guidebook recommended walking across but we wanted to head to the beach as soon as possible so we didn't venture very far.


View of the beach from the bridge!


I really, really love the waters of Okinawa!


There are lots of things to do on this beach but it'll all cost some money. And as we didn't bring a beach mat or umbrella, we ended up handing over some cash for some shade.



I wasn't really in the mood for swimming, but it was really relaxing to go barefoot on the sand and read a book by the waters!






I would totally recommend going to Kouri Island beach! It's really beautiful and if we could have gotten accommodations there, we would have loved to spend the night.

Yuiyuikunigami Rest Area

While we were in the area, we decided to have lunch at Yuiyuikunigami Rest Area, which is the northernmost rest area in Okinawa. One thing that came up over and over again when I was researching is that each rest area in Okinawa has its own specialties. And from the few that I've tried, they also serve cheap and delicious food.


The food court is in a separate area of the rest area.


Lots of boar featured in the menu and it was surprisingly delicious.


Both my sister and I couldn't finish our meals and they were among the cheapest that we had. They were really tasty too!


From the website, I read that their cafe is famous.



Everything is made in-house and delicious! And much cheaper than what I find in Kyushu or Tokyo. My favourite was the cream puff.


There's also a pretty big omiyage corner with lots of local products.


Including some local jellies.



They even have a mini-exhibition on the wildlife and various traditional items from the area.



If you're looking for cheap and good places to eat in Okinawa, you should definitely visit one of the various rest areas.

And that concludes my really, really long recap of my Okinawa trip. I don't think I've ever done a recap this long and I think it's a pretty fitting end to my journey in Okinawa. All that's left is one last post on what I did before I left, I guess?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Ryugujyo Butterfly Garden and Churaumi Aquarium

Click here for the list of all Okinawa trip posts.

Second last recap post! I'll probably do the last one tomorrow because I think I'll be home. So if you're in the Kunigami area, you'll definitely want to go to the Ocean Expo Park. It's this huge, state-run park that contains the Churaumi Aquarium, Tropical Dream Center, Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum, Traditional Okinawa Village and Omoro Arboretum, Oceanic Culture Museum, Okichan theatre, as well as beaches and restaurants. We would have loved to explore the whole thing, but because we were on a tour, we only had time for Churaumi aquarium and Ryugujyo Butterfly Garden.

Ryugujyo Butterfly Garden
Ryugujyo Butterfly Garden is located next to the Ocean Expo Park, so if you're like butterflies, it's worth making a quick stop here. We had 50 minutes for lunch and the garden and we found it to be enough time, so this place should be easy to fit into your schedule.


There's a restaurant and gift shop here, but the food is nothing special.

These are the doors to the park. You put your ticket in the mouth of the little butterfly-child and the door swings open.


The butterfly garden is actually a small area of the park. If you want to explore the whole place, you might take some time, but if you're only interested in the butterflies, then just head straight to the butterfly house.


Sights on the way:



The entrance to the butterfly house.


This is the main section. It's a little small, but there are quite a few butterflies, so expect a photo spam below!




They have these accessories that allow you to take photos with the butterflies, but even though I saw the butterflies land on these fake flowers, they flew away the minute my sister took the bouquet. So in the end, I couldn't get a close-up shot of my sister and the butterflies. (Although it seems like others are successful, so you may need to wait longer than we did)







If you're wondering, 'Did Eustacia take photos of only one butterfly?' the answer is 'Maybe'. Because I've no idea how many of these butterflies live here.



There's a mini corner if you want to learn more about butterflies. Everything's in Japanese, though, so you may want to come with a Japanese speaker.


The second half of the house, which had a rest area, the butterfly corner, UFO claw machine, and even a photo booth!


Churaumi Aquarium
If you like marine life, you have to visit Churaumi Aquarium when you're in Okinawa! Just be warned that because the place is pretty big, you may have to walk for a few minutes just to reach the place (especially if you're coming from the bus car park).


The island opposite the park is called Iejima and it has a population of about 5000.


There were a lot of cute plants around too.


Our first look at the aquarium!




The aquarium focuses a lot on Okinawa sea life (naturally) and while I was more focused on the fishes, I did learn that there are more than 300 rivers in Okinawa and they tend to be steep and short, plus mangroves tend to form when they reach the sea, which makes for unique conditions not seen in other parts of Japan.

Photos of the aquarium:




And the main attraction was the whaleshark tank! These creatures are truly majestic and I can see why the tank was so crowded!



There's a shark research lab right next to the tank which was pretty interesting. According to my sister, sharks are the most lovable and adorable creatures and most of them are harmless as long as you don't disturb them.


Apparently there used to be three whale sharks here, but one female moved away last year (2016) to start her own family so there's only one male and one female shark now.


There's also a cafe next to the tank. It's a bit expensive, but you can reserve a table next to the tank WHICH IS AMAZING. Totally worth the overpriced food (which was pretty tasty so we had no complaints). There is a long queue, though, so be prepared for a wait.



There's also a deep-sea exhibit, which was really cool. But if you're there, please be considerate. The lights are purposely kept dim to mimic the natural environment for the fish, but some tourists FLASHED THE PHONE LIGHT AT THE FISH. It completely destroys the purpose of dimming the lights and it's such an inconsiderate move.

Don't be like those tourists.


There's a little beach nearby, which was pretty but I think you can't swim there. There's also a proper beach a bit further away.



And here's another look of the outside of the aquarium. There are two more tanks outside the aquarium: the manatee and turtle tanks, if I remember correctly. However, the tanks just made me feel sad because they weren't very big and the manatees didn't seem happy.


I really wish that we had more time here. Three hours was just enough for the aquarium (to be fair, we spend at least half an hour eating at the cafe), so if you intend to explore the whole park, you might want to set aside an entire day.