Welcome to Motobu Town! This is an extremely beautiful part of the main island. It’s a place where you can get away from the concrete and busy life in the cities. There are many beaches around, many of which you will see when driving along the road! Motobu, or rather Izumi, is well known for the many unique coffee shops/restaurants. This area is also famous for mikan (juicy little oranges) and mikan picking in the winter months. It’s also a popular destination for tourists, mainly because of the Churaumi Aquarium. So be prepared for some heavy traffic over the weekends and look forward to enjoying a full day of a little bit of everything—snorkeling or swimming at the beach, coffee in the hills, lunch at a café, a walk around the aquarium, sunset dinner at Motobu Pizza place or sunsets on Sesoko Beach. There is so much to do and see. Happy adventures!
PLACES TO GO
This place is one of Okinawa’s top tourist spots! It’s a large aquarium famous for its giant tank with whale sharks. There are a ton of different marine animals you can see here, and they have a variety of shows and events throughout the day. You can learn about marine life specific and unique to Okinawa too! In the summer, the aquarium is open for longer hours. Check out the times and price of admission here: Hours & Admission. If you have family visiting, you can get an annual pass and save some money on multiple trips to the aquarium.
For more information, visit the aquarium’s homepage: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Ocean Expo Park
The Churaumi Aquarium is part of the Ocean Expo Park. The park is about three kilometers along the coast and offers small shuttle buses that go between the park’s attractions for a small fee. The various park sites and facilities are also connected by walking paths. You can visit a beautiful arboretum and walk through tropical flowers and trees, or you can visit the Oceanic Cultural Museum which has a planetarium where you can learn about the stars in the Okinawan sky. There’s also a re-creation of a native Okinwan village during the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom (17th–19th centuries). There’s so much to see and do here that you can have a full day trip and still not see the entire park! Even though you’ll be a local walking among tourists, it’s definitely worth checking this park out and it’s a great place to bring family or friends who are visiting.
For more information about the park, visit here: Ocean Expo Park Area
Nakijin Castle Ruins & Museum
Nakijin Castle Ruins are the remains of a castle from the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, you can enjoy getting a small glimpse of Okinawa’s past—the large stones and sprawling reminas of a wall. You can also get a good view of the ocean and visit the museum to learn more about Okinawa’s deep history. It’s a great walk and between mid-January to early February, you can enjoy walking through the cherry blossoms, which are the first cherry blossoms to bloom every year in all of Japan.
PLACES TO EAT
This area has many unique coffee shops and restaurants dotted around the hills. They are ideal places to go to restore the soul and take in the beautiful surroundings of Northern Okinawa.
1. Yachimun Kisa Ten
This is a very well known little coffee shop tucked away in the Izumi Hills. (BBC did a documentary here!!) The surroundings are stunning, and it is a place you have to go to if visiting the North! Iced tea or coffee, hot cocoa, orange juice and acerola are on sale for around \400 (pricey!), and you can have an Okinawa pancake called Hiriachi as a light meal or their unique crepes. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
3. Artists coffee shop – Kaze no Miwa
The man who runs this coffee shop is a well-known artist who paints pictures of Okinawa in watercolors. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
4. Coffee shop
This is yet another coffee shop with a good view over the Motobu valley. There are a few gifts you can buy in the attached shop. CLOSED ON MONDAYS
5. Aizome Indigo Dying
This little teahouse and studio offers herbal teas, iced drinks and light vegetarian meals, and a beautiful view. There is also a little shop inside which sells the locally made indigo tie dyed clothes and fabric. Alongside the coffee shop is the small factory/studio where you can watch the dying take place and have a lesson on how to dye fabric. I think you need to phone in advance to book a time if you want to learn how to dye.
6. Utopia Farm
This place is a poor attempt at an American ranch! They have animals to look at, horses to ride, cows to milk. The reason I mention it is because it is at the top of a hill with great views and they have homemade ice cream, made from the milk of their Jersey cows. The ice cream is really good! You can apparently organize out rides (on horses) from here…?
The restaurants are also very unique in the area. I have mentioned only a few which are the more popular ones. I would recommend the PIZZA SHOP (Kajinho) on the hill in Motobu as your first choice!
2. Seseragi Kisa (Curry Shop)
This place serves a real Indian curry with Nan bread and yogurt on the side. It is a good curry! The interior is small and quaint, and it is situated next to a little river. There is a beautiful rock garden you can walk up to if you pay an extra \100, just over the little walk bridge. It is quite beautiful! CLOSED ON MONDAYS & TUESDAYS
8. Chie Shokudo
This little restaurant has 3 items on the menu: Miso shiru, Tofu soup and Okinawa soba. They are really good, compared with most soba shops. The miso soup is one of the best I have tasted and is a meal on its own as there is a lot in it! CLOSED ON MONDAYS
9. Arakaki Zen Zai Shop
This place serves only one thing: zenzai. This is a Japanese sweet dish, served cold on shaved ice or hot in a sweet syrupy soup with Mochi (rice balls). It’s made from small red beans and black sugar. This place is famous for some reason and has been running for many years. There are invariably queues over weekends and it is usually sold out by early afternoon. If you want the real thing, then this is the place to get it!
10. Kishimoto SOBA
This is meant to be a famous soba shop because the soba is hand made. It is VERY small and busy over the weekends.
This is the well-known place to head for when in Motobu. Only one type of pizza is served as well as a big salad that can easily be shared in a group of 4. Besides the pizza being good, it is located at the top of the hill, offering an excellent place to view the sunset over the Motobu Bay. You can clearly see Mina and Ie Islands as well as the town of Motobu. The building itself is also pretty special. You can sit inside on the floor around little wooden tables or out on the lawn in the sunshine. Be prepared to queue over weekends, but it is worth the wait. It opens at 12noon and closes at 7pm, but in summer you can have hang around for a while after 7pm, to take in the sunset.
18. Herb (Vegetarian Restaurant)
This place is located off the beaten track. It is in very tranquil settings and you can sit on an outside deck looking at the view or inside the air-conditioned room. It serves light vegetarian meals as well as other non-alcoholic beverages. When visiting the Naklijin castle ruins, it is usually a nice place to stop in.
19. Haru Natural Café
This is a beautiful artistic café on the hill with big windows and a beautiful view over the ocean. Curry, sandwiches, cakes and drinks are sold, as well as other arty things.
20. Green Park Hotel and Golf course
You can play golf here, and there is a restaurant inside the hotel. It is okay, but if you were just visiting the area, I would try some of the more unique places!
23. Chinese Restaurant
This is in Nakijin. The food is really good, but it has no atmosphere!
15. Tropical Dream Center
This is part of the Expo Park. If you are really into flora, then you could take all morning here. There is a huge orchid house, with orchids from all over the world. There are also other displays of vegetation from different parts of the world. Entrance into the park area is free but into the dream center is \1000.
17. Nakijin Castle Ruins and Museum
As far as I am concerned, once you have seen one castle you have seen enough! Nakijin castle is pretty much similar to some of the others I have seen in the south. The only difference is that it is quite spectacular over cherry blossom season (end January). I suppose if you could understand more of the history, you would enjoy it more. The views from the castle are good, though. You can see Iheya and Izena islands, as well that brilliant blue sea.
24. Antique shop and cheap Kimonos
The owner built this whole castle like building himself. His wife goes regularly to Kyoto and picks up old Kimonos and sells them very cheaply here. You have to rummage through all of them in order to find something decent, but with a little cleaning up and work you can have a very cheap new looking Kimono. (I mean for as little as 200 yennies!) There is also other bits of antique furniture, some junk and bits around. IF you into digging and finding bits and pieces then this is the place for you!
25. BG resort – jet ski/banana boat / kayaking / indoor swimming
If you are into marine sports then this is the place to go. You can go on various rides on a jet skis or banana boat. You can also rent a kayak, go for a ride in a glass bottomed boat and sail. There is also an indoor pool if you want to stick to fresh water and avoid the UV rays!
26. Motobu Gym
If you are in the mood for a little indoor exercise, then why not try out the new Motobu Gym. I was rather disappointed at the small size of the work out and weights room, but at least their equipment is up to date! You can also rent badminton / tennis rackets and knock around inside the sports hall. For locals, gym access is \105 per person, and for those out side of Motobu, it is \250. Of course, it costs more for rental of equipment.
I .To Mina Island – TOGUCHI PORT
TIMES: contact the local Motobu Junior High School ALT
II. To Ie Island – MOTOBU PORT
TIMES: Contact the Ie Island ALT
III. To Izena / Iheya Islands – UNTEN PORT
TIMES: ASK the local ALT on IHEYA / IZENA islands
Good Views/ Camping / Picnic places!
A. Mt Yaedake and the Cherry Blossom festival (C) (End January)
This mountain is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. The whole road from top to bottom is lined with cherry trees, and lanterns are lit up in the trees at night . Half way up the hill is a park area where the 2-week festival is usually held. Out of season it is still beautiful, and there is a good view of Motobu town as well as Ie, Sesoko and Mina Islands.
B Sesoko Beach and Camp Site and Golf course
This beach is long so you can get away from people who tend to flock there over weekends. In the summer months you have to pay to park your car, but you can get away with it, sometimes, by parking in the golf parking lot (just avoid the golfers when they see you with snorkel and goggles and no clubs!) or in the area that is not a designated parking area. This beach is really good for watching a sunset and having an evening BBQ. Especially on the far right hand side, there are some caves and it is well protected from wind, rain and sunshine. The snorkeling is not great, and the fish scarce, but at least the beach is cleaner than most.
There is another beach under the bridge, which is free and still very good for swimming. The beach is smaller but still clean.
D Annual Fireworks display
Every year in July (New JETS just miss it, but try it out at the end of the first year), there is a massive fireworks display near the Expo Park. It is pretty impressive. They have some BIG, beautiful, very loud fireworks. There is also a festival on that night. The only thing is that all of Okinawa comes to see it, so the traffic is generally hectic. Rather stay up in the area, or else, plan to get up to Motobu early in the morning, and leave late that night.
E. Emerald beach / Snorkeling spot / picnic area
IF you are in the area to see the Expo Park, then it might be quite nice to have a swim at the popular Emerald beach (that is if you want to join all the other tourists.) Otherwise to get some better snorkeling and less crowded areas, then walk down the concrete walkway to the point. Right there is a safe pool, which has some good snorkeling. There is also a picnic area and a place for good sunsets.
F. Fukugi Trees
Fukugi trees are known for their strength and wind breaking abilities in typhoons. IT is meant to be a great sight seeing spot for tourists but I don’t quite know why! So, I just mentioned it anyway! But don’t go out of your way to see them!