Fukushuen Garden is rated number 5 in the many things to do in Okinawa. At a cost of only two hundred Japanese Yen or about $1.80 US dollars it is well worth the price many times over. I spent about an hour and a half there just exploring, taking pictures, walking the many paths, feeding the Koi Carp, Turtles, and Pigeons that live there, by the time I left I was extremely relaxed, feeling happy at being enriched with good vibrations from the property. I can’t speak, or read Japanese, and I didn’t bother to look at the English brochure the ticket counter gave me. I didn’t have to the gardens are designed in a circular fashion with arrows indicating the typical route, but not indicating a need to go the usual way. I was happy to take my time in any direction that pleased me. The sun was out and there was plenty of shade in the sweltering humidity of the day. The bathrooms are nice, so grab a drink at the vending machine and follow the grey bricks around the park.
The Gardens were created in 1992, at 26 years old they are not considered historic architecture. What is Historic is the design of the buildings, and the garden itself. Fukushuen is what a historian would consider a garden based on the Chinese culture, a typical layout with bridges, ponds, symbolic creatures like Koi, and Turtles that are sacred to the Chinese. The park is neat because most of the materials to build it were from Fuzhou City in China and it was built as a gift to celebrate Okinawa’s 10 years of friendship with the city the materials came from, along with memorializing 70 years of Okinawa prefecture capital city Naha becoming a municipality founded on May 20th 1921.
The park is 8,500 meters squared or about 27,887 feet squared, and it is only fitting that Okinawa’s multi-cultural heritage be displayed throughout the garden. Naha is the largest and southern most Prefecture in Japan. With it’s location in the East China Sea, and proximity to Taiwan and China it has over the centuries been an important hub for trade, politics, and education. The garden represents a blending of cultural integration, with various types of vegetation throughout the park. I found the label plaques helpful in identifying the many types of plants since I am no botanist. There are many themes of Ryukyu in the garden which means “Glazed horn-dragon” you can find dragons adorning the columns at Pine and Bamboo Pavilion the 5th spot on the map. Though Ryukyu has a literal meaning it is also the name for the Kingdom that ruled the area from the 15th-19th century.
Naha was a place of productivity, thought, reflection, economic growth, and a commercial port hub of trade. Due to it’s location and powerful influence over the centuries Okinawa became unique and rich with influences from Japan, China, Korea, and even Siam along with similar belief systems like Thailand. Okinawa has only been a part of Japan for a short time 139 years since it’s annexation in 1879. Though there is not American Influence in the garden, I think it is important to note that on the island itself there is an American influence as well. Since US military involvement after the end of world war two and the Battle of Okinawa. Even after the US rendered control of the island of Okinawa back to Japan after 27 years of US administrative control in 1972. the US Military never left, Okinawa makes up only about 1% of Japans land, yet the US military encompasses nearly 60 % of its activity on Okinawa due to the treaty signed in 1960 which is still in effect. The treaty now called The U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement. This leaves Okinawa having a similar feel to me as Hawaii, just having come from Kauai Hawaii, and previously visiting Pearl Harbor. This is not a history article, I don’t even like history because it is constantly repeating itself. The facts that surround the history of Okinawa however make it a uniquely diversified place to visit.
I felt Okinawa to be very different from Osaka, Japan. the people were different in appearance though subtle, apparel choice was more casual, the climate was more humid with an increase in temperature. The language I heard spoken on the Yuri Rail was also not the same and had a different dialect to it than in Osaka. This is because Okinawa were not Japanese, but known as Ryukyuan people, island people from the south Ryukyu Islands also called the Nansei Islands. originally Okinawa had it’s own language, which now is being forgotten except by the elderly. The Garden felt like a sacred place and gave the illusion of stepping back in time. Being my first visit to Asia I have no former knowledge of what an authentic Chinese Garden might look like except for what I’ve seen on TV and in the movies. I imagined spending a whole day or days here in the garden disguised quietly in the middle of the city. I would read books, I could hide out, and enjoy nature. I was very surprised to learn from the video playing on the grounds that the Fukushuen Gardens hadn’t in fact been there for centuries. The Gardens offer a web guide walk-through for smart phones, but I wasn’t interested in being prattled to about the gardens. I preferred to listen, smell, touch, and enjoy the ambiance that was offered as is without the historic content. Fun fact the Ryukyuan people or Okinawan’s are one of the longest living people in the world.
Must do List in the Fukushuen Gardens
Go on a nice day, to enjoy the full spectrum of colors and design
Go during a season, and continue to follow the seasons as the garden changes to reflect them
Go on a Holiday in Okinawa The Japanese New Year, and The Chinese New Year are both celebrated.
Go at night. This would have been a super romantic place to go on a date, or get proposed to
Bring a book, or spend a day painting like I saw a woman doing.
Feed the Fish it only costs 100 yen for the Koi Food dispensers around the garden near the water. The various bodies of water in the park are filled with fish, turtles, and some friendly pigeons. I bought three boxes because it was so much fun to see the Koi come towards you even before I had food the fish I could tell were trained. They make sick noises gulping and undulating their bodies around one another fighting for the food. The turtles are not so good, and I think some of them don’t see to well, so throw some food in one direction for the fish to race to, and then give the turtle a chance. The pigeons took the food right out of my hand and were pretty well mannered. There were three of them that flew over like the The Three Stooges!
Go through the waterfall, behind it, and around the rock structure. It was creepy, but with someone it might be exciting to sneak a kiss, or hide out.
Climb the many stone steps around the gardens up to the tall Mount Ye and Pavilion of Ye # 8 on the map.
Look out at a high pavilion and see the modern city buildings and compare it to the Garden.
Don’t put your toes in the water the turtles can bite, and the water was a bit green an fishy. Pretty to the eye but icky to try and dip in.
Take lots of selfies at the various locations.
If you have kids bring them, although it is a place of relaxation and quiet, a child’s laughter and sense of curiosity would make a fun day trip, and your child will feel like a real explorer, Even adults might be touched with a spark of discovery, a magic long forgotten from youth.
If you have ever seen the movie The Secret Garden then pretend you are in it!
Get a red ink stamp at the ticket counter for a souvenir its free. Continue the trend at Shuri Castle!
Breath deep, Smell the flowers, listen to the breeze, think, reflect, and let your body calmly relax into nature.