Don’t miss this urban oasis in Naha
Located in the downtown district of Naha is a stunning Chinese garden. Built in 1992 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Naha becoming a sister city with Fuzhou, China, the garden itself is constructed almost entirely of material originating from Fuzhou, with the assistance of artisans from the city. It’s location is of significance too, being in the Kume neighbourhood. Originally, this area was called Kumemura, and was the heart of Chinese culture for many centuries in the Ryukyu Kingdom.
It is very much a traditional design, walled in and sectioned off, with much asymmetry and a large, single body of water that extends throughout. Koi and turtles reside here, symbols of longevity and wisdom in Chinese culture. There are a variety of bridges extending over the pond, which you can cross at your leisure, and, if you fancy for a mere 100 yen, you can even feed the Koi. They are quite bold and greedy, so expect a good show from them.
The cherry on top of the ice cream, as it were, is the beautiful waterfall. This can be found facing the East entrance, cascading down a rock pile that houses an artificial cave. You can walk through it, but be warned, even during the day it’s dark and slippery, so take a small light and wear sensible shoes. Stairs cut into the side of the rocks lead to a Chinese pavilion, allowing you a spectacular view of the entire gardens.
Other notable features are the four gates of cardinal direction, various statues cast in stone and wood, bells, six-sided pavilions, painted inscriptions, a plethora of beautiful flora, and a rather suspect looking crane, who I’m sure is eyeing up the plump koi for dinner.
It’s free to enter, which makes it a very cheap day out. Restrooms and vending machines are available, and you’re free to walk round at your leisure. There is an information booth. Though English isn’t spoken well, the staff are very polite and will help as much as they can. It’s incredibly peaceful. It’s in a quiet area, which helps, but walking through it’s grand entrance, you could easily forget you were in a city. With ample seating areas, it’s a wonderful place for a picnic, just make sure you clear up after and keep an eye on that crane.
My favourite parts of the garden include the zodiac bridge, a sweet little crossover with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac carved in stone adorning it. Great place to stop and smell the flowers. I also loved the huge stone pavilions. These face one another in an area flanked by a wooden pavilion, housing some rather large and impressive Chinese vases. The waterfall too, is quite something, especially viewed from the east entrance. Perfect photo opportunity.