Most people on Okinawa would say that we live in “northern” part of the island, but if you look on a map, we are really in the central region of the island. We are considered in the north because most of the population on the island resides in the south. Ginoza, the little village in which we live, has an annual garden tour hosted by the local community center. The cost to do the tour is only 500 yen, which is a little under $5.00. I imagine that all of the money they made went to the printing costs of the map and passes. The tours are self-guided, and guests are welcome to go anytime from 10am until 4pm; it lasts for a week. When I heard that it was garden tour week, I knew that I needed to go. This would be my chance to see beautiful gardens, but I also wanted to see how Okinawans actually live. Even though we don’t live on base, my street is made up of all Americans so my interactions with the local Okinawans is limited. This would be my chance to get a sneak peak into how they live.
What I found was that each garden was unique. One garden had succulents in painted cans that have been repurposed. Repurposing is even more important on a little island. Trash disposal isn’t like what it is in the US, so I was delighted to see this unique way of recycling/repurposing cans. I also happen to love succulents, so this was one of my favorite places in any of the gardens.
Another lovely garden displayed photographs throughout the garden, showing the garden owner’s artistic talent beyond the flowers. What a wonderful way to show off your talent!
Another garden felt very protected by the giant rock formations that surrounded the yard. I grew up in the flatlands of West Texas, so nothing could be more different than this amazing garden. When I say the rocks were huge, that is an understatement. They were massive. Trees were growing up between them, and the gardener had added pots and flowers in nooks between the rocks. It was a beautiful contrast between the grey rocks and the soft, colored foliage.
Others had more vibrant colors than I have ever seen in one place (other than a nursery). This is only one example of color on color. Many of the gardens had variations of this type of look.
Most of them had seating areas, and I found these to be some of my favorite features. They made me want to sit and to enjoy a cup of coffee with a good friend. I bet in the winter and early spring they use these seating areas to relax with their hot tea or cold drink.
To be honest with you, my favorite part of the experience was getting to experience it with friends. The first time I toured the gardens, 3 of us went on a whim. Since it was near our homes, we didn’t have to plan a big trip or a big time block. Unfortunately, right now, I don’t have big blocks of time for fun, but we made it work. The second time I went, a friend and I put on our run gear and did 12 miles of running from house to house so that we could get our training run in while exploring the community. Honestly, it was the most fun I have had running in as long as I can remember. It felt like we were on a scavenger hunt. We were lost half the time. We got strange looks from the other people on the tour. We even saw friends at one of the houses. I love the efficiency of training, exploring, and fun. I am great about blocking out hours for running, but not great at blocking out hours for fun. This allowed me to do both at the same time! It was such a runner’s treat.
The next time you have the opportunity to run or ride your bike to do a tour like this, I would strongly recommend it. If you have no interest in looking at gardens all gross and sweaty, then grab your map and hop in your car and go! You won’t regret time in fresh air, admiring beautiful flowers, and getting inspired to work on your own yard.