We rented an auto for our third day with many stops planned within a nine-hour period. Prior to our trip I checked the distances between each stop to be no greater than twenty-five kilometers.
Out first attraction was Manko Waterbird and Wetland center. Only fifteen minutes from Naha Airport you can view a good information video at the center and then head out to the boardwalk to try and spot some waterfowl. This area covers 16 acres and was once visited by Commodore Perry. When the tide changes you can spot all types of birds feeding on crabs, small fish, and sandworms. In 1999 Manko was designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. During our short time to the wetlands, we spotted a Plover, Osprey, Egret, and several Heron.
Our next stop was to Kogane Forest Park. This park was of special interest to both Hiro and myself for its history. Beyond the sports facilities are some nice walking trails leading to several WWII monuments with an Imperial Japanese Hospital. There were over 30 manmade tunnels in which bunker number 20 became a field hospital. What was unique is that the army pressed local teenage high school girls into becoming Nurse Aides. They became known as the Himeyri Student Nurse Corps. The park also has several observation decks with a great view of the area. As a side note watch out for poisonous snakes, the cute signs along the trails make them look harmless, but they are not.
Another twenty-minute ride and we arrived at The World Heritage Nakagusuku Castle. Believe it not there were 300 castle ruins found in Okinawa prefecture with this one being the best preserved. It sits on a limestone mountain and the Ryukyu artisans utilized this natural limestone to build the six enclosures. Gosamaru, the lord of Zakini-jo moved his residence to this castle in 1440. Once totally completed the grounds covered almost 28 acres of which 3.58 were inside the enclosure. In certain places you can walk up on the walls for some nice views on the east of Nakagusuku Bay and to the west the East China sea. While we were on the wall a male Rock Thrush entertained us by flying to each area we were exploring. On our way back down to the parking area we found this nice Nakagusuky Rock Café, serving some very good Peruvian organic coffee with some local black sugar produced in Okinawa. You eat the sugar cubes like a snack.
Back in the car for our next adventure to Cave Okinawa. This limestone cave is approximately 655 feet long. This was one of the few caves I have explored in Japan that had high ceilings and I did not have to duck down along the pathways. The cave maintains year-round temps between 68 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The lighting made for some nice colorful spots along the route. As you come to the end there is a hear shape rock and they advertise this as a romantic cave.
Another fifteen-minute drive and we arrived at Cape Maeda, very famous for snorkeling and the blue cave. Our goal was to just take pictures of the panoramic views and we were not disappointed. The coral rocks rise high up revealing a clear emerald green ocean. The sunset view from this cape has appeared in many movies and on TV commercials.
With just a few hours left we headed out to our last stop Chatan American Village. Having lived in Japan for close to ten years I was ready for a little bit of Americana. This is a very large shopping, food, and amusement mall. We only had enough time to walk through the areas near our parking lot. Enjoyed a burrito from The Burrito Gang before we had to leave and return our rental car at Naha Airport.
What an awesome day, filled with lots of different stops. You may want to set aside several days during your trip to Okinawa just to explore nearby attractions.