Editor’s Note: Ryukyu Mura was originally reviewed on Okinawa Hai on November 1, 2007; you can read a PDF copy of that original review here. The post below is an updated take on this site, published January 22, 2016.
CONTRIBUTED BY MARISSA MATSUZAKI
“What do you think you would be most interested in doing when you visit me in Okinawa?” I asked my cousin as we were planning for his summer visit. Without hesitation he said, “I want to experience as much CULTURE as possible.” The first place I thought of was Ryukyu Mura.
I discovered Ryukyu Mura by following the elves I noticed on my weekly route down 58 toward Yomitan. Curious about these statues with pointy ears, one Saturday I just followed them and the road signs until I reached Ryukyu Mura. Immediately I stepped back in time and was immersed in a culture of vibrant colors, fragrant curries, traditional melodies, and warm people.
The Japanese word “Mura” translates as village. Ryukyu Mura is a recreation of a traditional village in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa was one of the Ryukyu Islands before it became part of the Japanese chain). We enjoyed making our way through the very stroller-friendly paved village that had many shaded areas throughout the course where we could get a break from the hot sun. Throughout the day staff would come walking through or sit in one of the small houses playing traditional instruments and wearing Kimono or Yokata (and if you’d like to rent one to wear through the village you can). Usually as you make your way through you’ll have an opportunity to taste traditional teas, soups, or buy food and beverage goods such as cookies or sake. If you purchase a ticket to make a traditional handcraft, you can sit in one of the village houses with a sensei who will instruct you on how to make a picture frame, paint shisas, or paint bingata. When you also purchase a ticket for the Habu show, you’re in for a real treat.
We followed the narrow path through a wooded area that led to the theater on the hill. Along the course were informational signs (with English translations) sharing fun facts about Habu and Mongooses. I didn’t realize there would be a performance with Eisa Dancers just before the Habu show and it was a real treat! The rhythmic drumming, chanting, and audience participation made the presentation exceptional. After that the Habu handler shared about the snake’s behavioral habits and gave an opportunity for pictures with the Habu under his careful supervision. If you are not fluent in Japanese, you can get the gist by paying attention to the handling demonstration. The adorable mongoose made an appearance in the show as well!
Rounding out the visit we were able to see a water buffalo with a traditional mill, feed carp in the pond, and visit a pottery factory stocked with traditional goods. It was an afternoon full of folk crafts, traditional music, dance, historical artifacts, local food and drinks, fresh air, and even wildlife. My visitor wanted to experience culture and I’m confident that this place delivered.
My final notes to future visitors: A general admission is 800 yen, extra attractions cost a bit more, take 100 yen coins so that the kids can feed the carp, and you can get a package deal through the ITT at Kadena or Foster that includes admission and the Habu show for a little discount. It’s a very stroller friendly place, but smaller strollers would be better for attending the show. I recommend you bring water bottles, comfortable shoes, and sun screen. If you haven’t already, add Ryuku Mura to your Oki Bucket List!
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Payment: According to the website, adults are ¥1200 and children (under 15) are ¥600, but discount packages are available through ITT. For a full list of prices of activities at Ryukyu Mura, please visit this page: List of Rates
Address: 〒904-0416 沖縄県国頭郡 恩納村字山田1130
Directions: Ryukyu Mura is located north of Kadena in Onna Village. Take the 58 north past the turns for Torii until you see a digital TV type of thing on the left that says Ryukyu Mura with an arrow to the Left. Turn left and follow the signs for a little ways. You’ll see the parking on the right side of the road and the entrance on the left.
Coordinates: 26.4294834, 127.77533819999996
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Ryukyu Mara should definitely be on your list of places to visit! My husband and I spent the morning there today and were absolutely in love with it. We touched a live habu, had it lay on our shoulders (totally for picture taking purposes!), watched Eisa performances, danced with the Eisa dancers, tried freshly juiced sugarcane, drank 80 year old Awamori, got to pet a Water Buffalo & much more all in the span of two and a half hours. I recommend getting there at opening. At 9am there is an Eisa Performance in the main square – A couple yards from that is the Habu Pit, which has performances every twenty minutes or so, then if you come back down to the main square at 10, there is this amazing Ryukyu Traditional performance . After that, you can walk around, look at traditional Okinawan houses, taste awamori, have tea, etc.
Directions? Easy! Follow Route 58 heading North. You’ll start seeing Ryukyu Mura signs after you pass Route 6. It’s about 4 to 5 kilometers after this. On your left, you’ll see a giant sign that says Ryukyu Mura, along with a digital screen and a large Kijimuna on this sign. You’ll turn left there & follow the scenic road down. Ryukyu Mura will be on your left, parking on your right! Good luck!
I’m fairly certain that the snake you can take your picture with (laying across your shoulders) is NOT a habu, but a non-poisonous snake. The actual habu stays in a case where there is no chance of deadly contact. The man doing the habu show made a point of explaining this to us when we were there (my mother was on the verge of tears until she found out that I was not actually touching a snake with lethal venom).
FYI, the adult admission is now 1200Y. Not sure about child’s admission.
I would choose Okinawa World. I have been to both and even though the Ryukyu Mura is great and closer, the Eisa show is short and does not have many participants. We went on a Sunday and the show lasted about 15 minutes and was held in an uncovered courtyard in the blazing sun. There were 3 drummers, 3 dancers, 1 sanshin player and the man that paints his face and dances around with the alcohol (can’t remember what he is called). Anyway, my kids and the rest of the Eisa group that they are in, just recently were the opening act for the Okinawa World Eisa group at a performance on Kadena Air Base. The Okinawa World group is AMAZING!! I think you would get the most of an Eisa experience here on Okinawa during Obon in many off base neighborhoods, but if your family is not here during that time then Okinawa World it should be! Have a great time!
If you had to choose between Okinawa World and Ryukyu Mura, which one would it be?? I’ve been to OW, but not RM… We were going to make the drive to OW with our visiting family, but RM is just up the road… Any suggestions? The thing we most want them to see is the Eisa dance…. Can anyone compare the shows at each place?
Do they have the parade and everything daily or just on weekends?
Hi, I go by LaLa on here too! Guess it’s time for a new Okinawa Hai name for me 🙂
Just an FYI as far as digital TV/jumbotron wise… Do NOT associate it with the Pachinko’s digital TV/jumbotron (like I did lol) once you see that on your left keep going and you’ll see it BIG as DAY lol probably in 2-3mins of driving (if that)… For those that get lost easily – like me lol..
Gate 1 Kadena took me about 35-40mins that’s with moderate traffic…
Can anyone give me an estimate of how long it should take to get there from Kadena Gate 1? We are still new here and tend to get lost very easily. Is the parade daily?
Take the left at the large digital jumbotron. The road veers to the left. The road will twist and turn some, then on the straightaway, you’ll see Ryukyu Mura to the left and parking to the right. Crosswalk attendants will hand wand at the ready to guide you.
Can anyone give better directions. We road around for 1 1/2 and still didn’t find this place. The only signs we saw was on the right hand side of the road when we were headed back toward Kadena that told us to make a U turn. Once you make the U turn you do see a digital sign, but there is nothing else about Ryuku after that. We did turn down the next busy road past the digital sign, but it took us to some deserted area.
Loved it! Lots of cultural things to do & see. We stopped to watch several things, but there was one lady sitting quietly by herself playing the Shamisen (see photos on Wikipedia). We stood there for several minutes watching and taking photos. She invited my Mother-in-law to sit down. She let her (attempt to) play the instrument while posing for photos for me.
For the most part, they are stroller friendly. I recommend a larger one like Grayco over an umbrella stroller. The larger wheels do better on the rocks.
Most of the on-site food is Japanese. One of the vendors had corn dogs. They were done in the microwave, so it’s not like going to the State Fair of Texas or anything, but it worked great for my 1 year old & 2 year old.
No, Okinawa World is way down south — Ryukyu mura is near to the Yomitan area. They are similar though — both have Habu areas, Eisa Dancers, local crafts…
Is Ryukyu Mura and Okinawa World the same thing?
I am sorry your son was scared a bit by the lion’s jaws, but if it’s any consolation I’ve heard that’s done for good luck? I know the ones in Japan do it, too.
You may try on a beautiful Ryukyuan Dress of the ancient Rukyus and take your OWN picture. Only “ryukyu Koban” coins can be accepeted for payment. You may exchange Y500 for a Ryukyu Koban coin.
I was wondering if anyone knows if they have a wide variety of foods to eat at Ryukyu Mura and Okinawa World. We are planning on going to both this with and with three picky eaters in the family I am not always sure about the food. Also does anyone know if you can bring your own food in like sandwhiches and such?
thanks so much.
Yes, you can dress up at Ryukyu Mura and get your pic taken.
I don’t know if that is true at Ryukyu Mura, but they do the photos at Shuri Castle right in front of the big Torii gate.
My sister is coming next week and my dad who has been here before said there was a park that you could dress up as geisha’s and warriors and have your picture taken (like the old time photos in the states) Anyways he said he was pretty sure it was at Ryukyu Mura, anyone know if this is true or not? I dont’ care if it is or not but now my sister is pretty interested in doing this. I know you can do it down town but it’s a bit expensive. If anyone knows please let me know.
I’m wanting to know this too.
We saw this activity at Shuri Castle.
Not sure if you can dress up at Ryukyu Mura and take pics, I believe so though it’s been a while since I’ve been there, however you can do this at Mura Saki Mura which is also in the Yomitan area. If you know where Zanpa beach is and you are heading toward it on the gateway to Zanpa road you’ll turn left right before this big red restaurant right across from the Zanpa hotel I call this the number road because from there you’ll see number’s starting from 17 all the way down to 1. Mura Saki Mura is shortly after you see number 6. It’s a kind of dark red place on the left hand side. Parking is on the left hand side behind a little white building directly across the st. from Mura Saki Mura There are ton’s of local activities to do here at Mura saki Mura from making and painting your own shisha dog’s, dressing up for pics, pottery, making pic frames or lamps out of shell’s making glass item’s and even pony rides. There’s so much more to do there. Cheap to get in but participating in the activities can be pricy depending on what you choose to do. There’s also quicker ways to get there, but this is the easiest way to explain it. When you leave however head right on the number road and stay on it till you hit number 1 a dead end. Be carefull not to follow the curve to the left right after Mura saki Mura because that’ll take you somewhere else. You’ll have to wait for traffic and then keep going straight. Once you hit the dead end after number 1 turn left that next light is the 6. Quickest way is to go straight across the 6 and up the hill turn right on the first road after you see OCSI a christian school. Stay on that road till you hit the 58. From there, you go right to head to Kadena or left to head north. I hope this was good enformation.
I would like to inform that it is still available to dress up and take pictures. I went to Ryukyu Village with my host family and my friend and his host family, and we stopped by in the souvenir area to take pictures before entering place.^^ This happened June 14, 2014!
Little embarassed to ask this since I wrote the original post, but has anyone ever done crafts here? Did you reserve a time before hand or upon entry?
Seems I’ve heard of somewhere else on island to do traditional crafts — anyone know?
I enjoyed this place. Great stop when you have visitors. One stop wonder. A whole day of events and food and sweets and men drumming. I love when these men drum. LOVE.