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When driving on the Okinawa Expressway between Northern and Southern Okinawa, take a break at the Okinawa Comprehensive Athletic Park to stretch your legs and play with the kids. Offering a view of the azure ocean, the park features a ton of fun for both children and adults. The park houses a water park of sorts, replete with slides and pools. There are also a few walking trails for those who wish to admire the scenery. Other facilities include a mini-golf and tennis courts. Every February, the Okinawa Marathon begins here.
Perfect for a relaxing family outing, adults can walk around the gardens admiring the view while kids make crafts like kaleidoscopes and painted figurines to take home as a keepsake. The park as its own currency called the "slow," a product of the ivory-nut palm tree. 500 slows are given to adults upon entry, and more can be purchased at the rate of 1 slow per yen. Slows can be used to buy goods and food in the park.
In Ishikawa near Uruma, visitors can walk through the fern-filled park, kayak, ride in a water buffalo cart, or go on a 25-minute jungle cruise, though tickets for the rides are not included in the entrance fee. The beautiful wild orchids growing in the park and the adjacent Bios on the Hill Garden Center, the largest orchid greenhouse in Japan, provide a perfect backdrop for a romantic outing as well. Wheelchairs and strollers can be rented at the front desk.
Near Shurijo, Shikina-En Garden served as a second home to the Shuri kings as well as the reception area for Chinese envoys. This idyllic pond-garden was first completed in 1799, before it was sadly destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa. An expensive reconstruction was carried out from 1975, and it took all of 20 years to restore the garden back to its original glory. Today, the gardens feature traditional Chinese bridges that connect small ponds, with beautiful seasonal trees such as plum, wisteria and bellflowers surrounding them. The confulence of Japanese and Chinese landscaping has led the gardens to become a part of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
The Ryukyu Kingdom takes much of its cultural heritage from China, and as such, Fukushuku-En Park was completed in 1992 to honor sister city relations with Fuzhou City. Traditional Chinese pagodas and tea pavilions are located throughout the park, making for a lovely and scenic day out. Visitors can also buy fish food from the vending machines to feed the fish in the ponds. The park is closed on Wednesdays.