CONTRIBUTED BY MICHELLE CAMINA
A neat little scenic spot to visit the next time you are in the northern Okinawa area is Igimihakinzo Observatory Park. Igimihakinzo Park is located in the mountains of Ogimi and offers visitors a lovely view of the surrounding countryside and a handful of islands (e.g. Ie, Kouri, Izema, and Iheya) off the East China Sea side of northern Okinawa’s coastline.
In addition to Igimihakinzo Park’s tiered observatory tower, there are picnic areas to enjoy and a hiking trail to explore.
This mere “footpath” (Labeled as such on the park map—but don’t let that fool you!) is part of the Yamashishigaki Mutayama Trail that winds its way up through the mountainside. The significance of the path is the stone wall perimeter it follows and that was erected more than 400 years ago by local villagers to keep out yamashishi (wild boar) from ransacking farmers’ potato fields. A more in-depth explanation of this area’s history in English may be found on a placard placed near the Yamashishigaki Mutayama Trail’s Shah Bay exit/entrance.
Depending on the time of year and how recently the footpath has been cleared of overgrowth and debris by Ogimi’s parks and recreation maintenance crew, the hike can prove to be an intensive activity. Appropriate footwear (hiking shoes or sneakers) is a must to attempt this trail. The path alternates between faux wooden steps, tiered stone blocks, dirt, loose boulders, leafy undergrowth, and places where gnarled tree roots jut out. All of these things collectively make the trek precarious in places.
Although the cooler weather months are an ideal time to attempt the trail in order to avoid mosquitoes, run-ins with habu, and beat that ever wonderful Okinawa humidity we all enjoy so much, one should consider hiking with a companion and make sure to bring water along. Even on a mild weather day a person can easily work up a sweat. So keep yourself hydrated while you enjoy the views!
Where: Kunigami-gun, Ogimi-son, Okinawa
Google Earth Coordinates: 26°41’7.35″N 128° 8’1.85″E
Map Points: 26.6869704, 128.13282700000002
(Note: these coordinates are only approximate due to Google Earth’s limited mapping of this area. So please use them in tandem with the directions posted below.)
Directions: Take the Okinawa Expressway north and get off on the 10 Toll exit. Follow Route 58 through and past Nago. Eventually you will pass signs along the 58 for Higashi and Ogimi. Just keep driving and be on the lookout for two large painted driftwood fish sculptures along the left-hand side of the road. These are your first set of landmarks.
Once you pass these sculptures, look immediately to your right for a sign with an owl and the word “Minori” painted on it.
Get in the turn lane and make a right onto this road. The drive up to the park takes approximately ten minutes. You will know you have arrived once you see (on the left side of the road) an orange mirrored pole standing next to a pole with signs directing you to turn right towards Igimihakinzo Park 50m away. The park is situated on the corner you turn onto. Park your vehicle in the parking lot directly across the street from the park area.
Additional notes: Bring a picnic, snacks, or consider grabbing a bite to eat before you leave Nago. You should also bring a trash bag and consider carrying your things in a small knapsack if you decide to attempt the trail. You’ll feel more comfortable hiking with both hands free. You’re going to need them!