Okinawa Theme Park Parade: 4 Great Spots in Miyakojima
29 February 2016
Ueno German Culture Village

Okinawa Theme Park Parade: 4 Great Spots in Miyakojima

When thinking about how to take advantage of Miyakojima’s stunning natural bounty, activities such as snorkeling, diving, watersports, and island tours immediately come to mind. While Miyakojima certainly offers these opportunities in abundance, some may want to break from traditional tourist options and take a more “local” approach, learning about the island’s deep cultural heritage, cuisine and crafts while thoroughly enjoying themselves. Okinawa theme park options are surprising, not least on Miyakojima—simply get off the beach, get out of the water, and head to one of the island’s 4 theme parks and cultural facilities for a change!

berlin wall in miyako island

Ueno German Culture Village(うえのドイツ文化村)

- What is it?
While the name might make a lot of people wonder what in the world Germany has to do with a tropical Japanese island, there is actually a very good—not to mention surprisingly moving—answer: In July 1873, when a German merchant ship ran aground off the coast of Miyakojima, the islanders worked as hard as they could to save them. When the German Emperor learned of the event, he was deeply touched and sent a memorial cenotaph in gratitude. Ever since then, Germany and Miyakojima have enjoyed a friendly relationship that continues to this day. In 1996, to convey the heart of philanthropy to future generations, the Ueno German Culture Village was born. The beautifully maintained park features a memorial hall with a motif based on the Marksburg castle in Germany, as well as an actual piece of the Berlin Wall over 3 meters tall and weighing more than 2 tons. Stone pavement covers the sprawling grounds, which boast entertainment facilities like the Kinder House, where you can enjoy the world of German fairy tales.

- Recommended Activities
Entry and parking are free, and you can enjoy walking around inside the village at your leisure, taking in the old-time Germanic atmosphere of the castle and surrounding buildings. Also, for a fee, you can enter the Philanthropy Memorial, based on the theme of the German ship’s historic rescue, and the Kinder House, which has a recreation of the time when the merchant ship was saved and explains how the people of Miyakojima rescued it. We recommend the village as a place to experience the history of Miyakojima while enjoying its natural splendor at the same time.

- Culture Village Details
Address: 775-1 Uenoazamiyaguni, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture
Phone: 0980-76-3771
Hours: 9:00am-6:00pm
Closed: Tuesdays (April to September)
Fees: Free entry to park (Some facilities within the park have fees)
Access: About 15 minutes by car from Miyako Airport
Access from Shigira Resort: 3 minute walk from the Hotel Breeze Bay Marina


Taragawa Sake Brewery

Taragawa Sake Brewery(多良川酒造)

- What is it?
From its establishment in 1948, this dedicated brewery has pursued traditional techniques unchanged even into the present, continuously handcrafting awamori—known as the typical sake of Okinawa—for over 60 years. The highlight item of this storied brewery is appropriately called "Taragawa" and is popular for its rich fragrance and taste. This brewery’s appreciation for yeast, the heart of brewing, has led to a series of awards including the Monde Selection Gold Medal.

- Recommended Activities
You can observe the cured sake process up-close, thus witnessing a traditional process that has been dearly protected since its establishment in 1948. Even here you will not be far from the natural lure of Miyakojima, as the sake is actually stored in a natural cave. And of course, as is to be expected as part of any sake brewery tour, you can actually sample it. On your way back, why not purchase some awamori as a souvenir? It's free to take a tour, so whether you are traveling alone or with your family you can easily visit. In any case, especially after learning how awamori is made, you will surely want to savor a drink in the evening.

- Miyakojima Drinking Customs
On Miyakojima, the locals have a unique style of drinking sake that they call oto-ri, which was originally conceived to make a very small amount of sake last as long as possible. The rules are that a given drinking group chooses a ‘master of ceremonies’ (also 'MC' in Japanese) and a drinking cup that is filled to the brim. After saying a few words, the MC passes the cup around one by one to each person to drink from. Once they have made a full round, the 'MC' is the last to drink, and must finish no matter how much is left over. Then he or she passes the cup to a neighbor or to the next designated person. From there the cup may be passed around endlessly like a relay. Since the custom was actually first developed to welcome people visiting from outside the island, those who visit a local drinking hole may even be asked to participate in the custom of oto-ri—have fun, but be careful not to drink too much!

- Brewery Details
Address: 85 Gusukubeuruka, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture
Phone: 0980-77-4108
Hours: 10:00am-4:00pm (Tour reservation hours)
Closed: Sundays / Old Bon Holiday / Year-End (May be closed on some Saturdays)
Fees: Free tours
Access: About 15 minutes by car from Miyako Airport
Access from Shigira Resort: About 7 minutes by car from the Shigira Bayside Suite Allamanda



Miyakojima City Experience Craft Village(宮古島市体験工芸村)

- What is it?
The Experience Craft Village, located inside the Miyakojima City Botanical Garden, has set up nine workshops for different craft genres. You can experience the challenge of various handicrafts such as woodworking, pottery, and seashell crafts, but the fun does not end with creating handcrafted objects. You can also delve into the island's history and culture by trying local Miyakojima cooking, horseback riding, and weaving.

- Recommended Activities
At the pottery workshop "Shisa Tobo-Kyu", for a reasonable price you can make your own pottery based on shisa, the traditional lion-like Okinawan decoration. Shisa have been the guardian spirits of Okinawa since long ago, and houses were always decorated with shisa for both aesthetic and spiritual reasons. There are many kinds of shisa that you can buy as souvenirs, but to commemorate your visit to Miyakojima, why not make your own original one?

- Craft Village Details
Address: 1166-286 Hirarahigashinakasonezoe, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture 
Phone: 0980-73-4111
Hours: 10:00am-6:00pm
Closed: Depends on the workshop (Please confirm on each workshop's website)
Fees: Free entry (For every workshop within the village, paid experience plans are available)
Access: About 9 minutes by car from Miyako Airport
Access from Shigira Resort: About 25 minutes by car from Shigira Resort


Miyakojima Marine Park

Miyakojima Marine Park(宮古島海中公園)

- What is it?
This is a special facility where you can get up close to Miyakojima's gorgeous ocean panorama without even having to dip your toes in the water. You can experience the underwater world in a way completely different than an aquarium, feeling as if you are right in the middle of the ocean.  Small children that can't go into the ocean yet can be brought here, and they can enjoy watching fish swim in their natural habitat.

- How is this Possible?
This underwater observatory, which uses 24 acrylic panels so that the window appears to be integrated as one with the sea, is a masterpiece. The giant window allows you to experience the vast nature of an ocean that feels close enough to touch. There are many ways to enjoy this ocean bubble, such as relaxing in the Seaside Cafe, where all seats have an ocean view; or buying souvenirs or island specialties at the administration tower. However you choose to spend your time, the Miyakojima Marine Park offers an experience that you will not soon forget.

- Marine Park Details
Address: 2511-1 Hiraraazakarimata, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture 
Phone: 0980-74-6335
Hours: 10:00am-6:00pm (Reservations open until 5:30pm)
Closed: Open year-round
Fees: Adults 1,000 yen, high school students 800 yen, elementary and middle school students 500, 6 and under free
Access: About 35 minutes by car from Miyako Airport
Access from Shigira Resort: About 50 minutes by car from Shigira Resort

When thinking of things to do in Miyakojima, theme parks may not be the first thing that comes to mind. That said, Okinawa theme park options like those on Miyakojima offer more than amusement; they also make use of the island's rich natural canvas or bring history to life right before your eyes. And if you choose to tour the awamori breweries, you can taste the painstaking detail that workers put into their craft. Of course, rare Miyakojima culinary pleasures extend far beyond drinking—each of the above options is anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour away from Shigira Resort, which boasts some of the best restaurants on the island. Try Miyako beef at Ryuguen and see for yourself!

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