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Kinjo-cho Ishidatami-michi, Naha

A traditional stone-paved path near Shuri Castle

Any visit to Shuri Castle would not be complete without a walk along the ishidatami michi, or stone-paved path, in Kinjo-cho. Located on the south-side of the castle, this is an area where high ranking samurai lived. The path, paved with Okinawan limestone, currently runs about 300 meters downhill from the castle. Originally it was about five kilometers long and connected Shuri Castle to Shikina-en.

As you walk down the path, you'll come to 'Madama', a cafe with an outdoor patio and a really nice view of Naha. Continue past homes separated by walls built with the same stones as the path itself. A bit farther down an alley branches off to the left. There is a handwritten sign here that says, in Japanese, that a special 300 year old tree is just one minutes' walk. Even if you can't read the sign, look for an arrow and the number '300'.

There are actually six o-akagi (giant akagi trees) in a grove down this alley. The oldest is over 300 years old; the others are all over 200 years old. They hover over small, ancient shrines surrounded by greenery. Before WWII, many akagi trees grew in and around Shuri Castle, but almost all were destroyed by fire.

Back on the main path, continue to head downward until you reach a lovely open-air 'rest house' where anyone is welcome to take off their shoes and relax on the tatami mats. Beside the rest house is the Kanegusuku natural spring. There is also a tiny soba shop here and across the main path is a newer cafe/coffee shop called 'Shiroya'.

If you are hungry, and still haven't eaten, walk to the very bottom of the path. On the right, just before the large street, is 'Sui Dunchi', an Okinawan restaurant in a traditional wooden home surrounded by a lovely garden. Although considered 'upscale', lunches are incredibly reasonable - starting at 880 yen. (Dinner courses start at 3500 yen).

The only negative to walking to the end, is that you have to turn around and walk back up. This is when the rest house really comes in handy. I also recommend stopping near the top at Madama for a cold drink, and perhaps a tasty dessert.

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