Our Tour of Tamagusuku

Hiromi leads us within the castle ruins on a hilltop in Tamagusuku, Okinawa. She explains that the castle was built of coral, like the island itself, but it looks a lot like the lava temple ruins (heiau) of Hawaii.

Everywhere I go in Japan, my friends stop and offer reverance at shrines, large and small, and I always join them. So, I am not surprised that, at the foot of the hill onwhich the castle ruins rest, we all stop to offer prayers at a small forest shrine.

The entrance to the castle looks out and down upon verdant countryside, including a wind farm.

View from the castle of the coastline, including Donto-in, which is the house closest to the ocean on the upper road around the hill.

More of the view from the castle ruins, of the ocean and Ou Island.

On one side of the castle, a deep and forested abyss.

Our next stop, Nakandakari Hiijaa, a spring developed as a communal water source, built of limestone in traditional Okinawan style in 1912-13. It includes men’s and women’s bathing areas, vegetable washing areas, laundry areas, and, of course, a shrine. Destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, it was partially restored in the 1960’s and fully restored in 2004.

The wonderful old tree at the Nakandakari Hiijaa compound, with a birdsnest fern in its boughs.

Next Hiromi shows us a verdant path to Hyahuna Beach, another sacred place in Tamagusuku.

Rising from the ocean is a stone marking where the goddess who was the mother of the Okinawan people first came to shore. I am wearing a t-shirt that Rina Usuki hand printed, and a skirt that Mayumi Hirai made. I am coming ashore, too.

Coral and shells abound on the beaches of Okinawa.

Kitesurfers love Hyahuna beach.

Just inland from where the kitesurfers sail is an old shrine commemorating the bird who brought rice stalks to Okinawa, beginning rice cultivation in both Okinawa and Japan, and the wealth it created.

At sunset we drive around tiny Ou Island, a fishing village isle connectd to Tamagusuku by a bridge.

For our dinner we stop at Hiromi’s favorite tempura stand, the only one on Ou Island, where we had tempura sea vegetables, squid and fish. Tempura, it turns out, is an elegant Japanese adaptation of a recipe brought by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century, who prepared batter-fried fish for Lent.