Okinawa Tourism Information:YanbaruCalling

Yanbaru Calling

post : 2020.01.15 23:00

Living in Okinawa, I often hear people say, “I was led there.” Like when bumping into someone I know and I ask, “What are you doing here?” Or when I come across a breathtaking sight, only because I got lost, or when I experience something new and great only because the shop I had intentionally wanted to go was temporarily closed, and I came across a shop I’d never been to.

Whether by coincidence, chance or some sort of alignment of the stars, people in Okinawa come across something positive, many tend describe the experience, “I was somehow led here.”


Places and people that you meet and come across too, may be because of such chances. The fun in travelling is also in letting yourself enjoy these chance meetings, I think. I also think that Okinawa is a great place for such a style of travelling. There’s so much to experience when you least expect it.

There are places that you can’t get to or people that you don’t have a chance to meet no matter how much you plan it out. In times like that, I think it’s best to think that it wasn’t meant to be, and so, I’ll look forward to my next chance.

That said, though, it was only about ten years ago that I was saying things like, “On this trip, I definitely have to go there! There’s no question! If I can’t, then my trip wouldn’t be complete!” Nowadays, Okinawa has taught me well. I find myself thinking, “Well, I don’t need to rush. If I was meant to go there, the right time will come.”

There’s a place that I feel I was “led to” last year, in 2019. This place is Yanbaru, the northern region of Okinawa Island. As a resident of Naha City, Yanbaru is somewhere that I don’t frequently go to. But in 2019, I came across chance meetings through work that let me spend a lot of time in Yanbaru.

Yanbaru is an area that is full of natural beauty with lush, untouched forests. In 2016, an area was designated as a national park, named Yanbaru National Park, and it’s projected to be added to the list of world natural heritage sites in the summer of 2020.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit various locations and thoroughly enjoy the nature found at these places. Shown above is locally known as “Broccoli Forest”, a rich forest with numerous Itajii trees that look like huge broccoli. Looking down from a bridge, I saw the beautiful shapes of the trees that looked like paintings.

It was just around the rainy season when I took a stroll in the forests. I was surrounded in the scent of soil and trees, pungent and rich after soaking the rain. The vegetation sparkled with raindrops, and the forest was alive with the buzzing of cicadas and cries of Yanbaru Kuina echoing from a distance.

The curls of the ferns, the new buds of brush pot trees, the rocks covered in moss moistened by the clear spring water, the thunderous sounds of the waterfall. The great outdoors excited me, and I couldn’t help yelling out every so often, “Oh, the forest is alive!” Once, I came across a baby boar that was quietly watching me from behind a bush.

I also spotted a beautiful dragonfly floating gracefully with its slim emerald-green body and black wings. It was the Ryukyu Haguro Tombo or the Ryukyu damselfly.

I also visited the Gesaji River area, known for the largest mangrove growth on Okinawa Island. This is where I learned that the word “mangrove” wasn’t the name of a particular vegetation, but a general term given to those that grow in this environment, and that the mangrove in the Gesaji River area was made up of black mangrove, Kandelia obovate, and red mangroves. I also learned that mangroves bloom sweet little flowers on their branches.

Photo below shows a Sakishima-Suo Tree, also known as Looking Glass Tree – estimated to be about 200 years old – that I saw in Aha, Kunigami Village. The tree was marvelous to look at, with its twisting curves at its root.

Below is Kugani Dake, a mountain that I barely managed to climb. When I finally reached the observation point, totally out of breath, I was rewarded with an amazing view. The mountain was embraced in fog all around and appeared majestic. I was speechless at the magical sight and felt like I was floating on clouds.


I had come to Okinawa initially because I love the ocean. In 2019, I found great happiness as I felt the breath of life in the forests of Yanbaru and experienced an Okinawa surrounded by hills.

I was led and decided to move here three years ago. I still love Okinawa. My journey to visit more sights of Okinawa to love will continue.

I hope that all of you visiting in the year 2020 will also find many, many things you love here on Okinawa.


Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Norie Okabe