Spotlight: Fukushuen Garden (Okinawa)

Bear with my continued Okinawa obsession this week. I really don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s enough to even make me trot off to the grocery store for some goya (bitter gourd) to make champuru (stir fry). If you’ve ever tasted goya, you know just how serious this obsession is becoming. 🙂

Anyway, in trying to find a sight to write-up for this week’s spotlight, I kept drawing a serious blank and finally settled on Okinawa again. You all know by now that I am a garden lover, but the Fukushuen Garden in Okinawa is quite a bit different than you might expect. For one thing, it’s not in any way like your traditional Japanese garden. Instead, Fukushuen looks like it’s ripped straight from an ancient Chinese ink painting.

The pagoda in the center of the garden
The pagoda in the center of the garden

Long before Okinawa ever became a part of Japan (which happened in 1879, for you history buffs out there), it was the Ryukyu Kingdom (the Okinawan islands are still known as the Ryukyu Islands) with its own separate monarchy. It didn’t enjoy totally independent status, however; it was tied to the Chinese mainland by trade status and was considered a vassal state. Many Chinese, mostly from Fujian Province, came to Okinawa in the 1400s and 1500s and settled in the Kume area of Naha city (the current location of the garden). The Fukushuen Garden itself isn’t nearly that old – it’s only been around a little more than a decade – but the two countries still share strong ties. Naha and Fujian’s Fuzhou City are even sister cities.

Confucious (?) ponders the garden's beauty
Confucious (?) ponders the garden’s beauty

The garden is lovely to wander through and totally different from a Japanese garden. Gone are the lanterns stone bridges and water basins. In Fukushuen, you’ll find a waterfall, a craggy mountain, several pagodas and a bridge with the animals from the Chinese zodiac parading across the posts. There are the obligatory fish to feed in the many ponds but the entire layout really gives you the feel of stepping outside Japan for just a moment.

Zodiac animals
Zodiac animals

Fukushuen is pretty easy to access – it’s a short walk from the western end of Kokusai Street and for drivers, there is a small parking lot nearby. Look for the large stone lions out front and you’ll know you’re in the right place.


4 thoughts on “Spotlight: Fukushuen Garden (Okinawa)

Add yours

  1. Why not visit Henoko, Nago-city, where Camp Schwab is located? I am sure you have been there since you were ex-Marine. You can pick up a lot of surprising stories out there. Especially, now. By the way, I am one of Tokyo Free Walking tour guides.

    1. Masagata-san,
      Thanks for your comment. I have been up to the Camp Schwab area a few times, but that was several years ago. Now I live in Kumamoto, so most of my current traveling is done in Kyushu and Honshu.
      The Tokyo Free Walking Guide program is great! I have recommended it to several of my clients and I have used the free guides myself.

    1. What an interesting personal connection, Tori_Tore! I’m glad you liked the article. Okinawa has a lot of Chinese influence – architecture, food, arts – from the time when it was a tributary state. It makes it very different from mainland Japan!

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