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In 2015, I visited Japan for the first time. My sister-in-law is native Okinawan and was our host and guide while we spent one and a half weeks exploring the island. The prefecture is a one hour plane flight from Tokyo, but offered vastly different experiences than more modernized parts of Japan. One of our favorite adventures combined the quirky nature of Japanese entertainment, with traditions and culture of the distinctly unique island of Okinawa.
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Nago Pineapple Park is obscure, and we were prepared and excited to embrace that. Walking up to the window to buy our tickets, we could already hear the echoes of the Sanshin theme song. A Sanshin is an instrument somewhat similar to a simplistic ukulele or banjo, but it makes a sound all of its own. I fell in love with the lighthearted peaceful songs often heard on the island, and here at the park.
Immediately after entering, we boarded a cheery yellow golf cart designed to look like a mobile pineapple. Then we were whisked away through the botanical gardens full of lush jungle foliage, and lots and lots of tiny pineapples. Our young nieces loved the calm yet exciting ride. Sticking to the touristy nature of the park, a photo was snapped of the family and offered in the gift shop complete with themed frame.
We wandered through the vibrant walkways and had opportunities to learn interesting facts and tidbits about pineapples. But let’s be honest, the most exciting thing was weaving through the cafés and shops to taste sometimes weird, and sometimes expected, pineapple treats. To this day, my favorite kimchi ever is the pineapple version from this place. The family loves the traditional Okinawan salt cookies (like shortbread but better) coated in a pineapple frosting. And if you see ice cream, get some!
Standing out from all of the other goodies to taste was the pineapple wine. My brother and sister-in-law had already visited the park before and had really gotten us excited about the refreshing sweet concoction. The park offers generous samples of everything, including their wine. And we definitely left with a couple of bottles.
There’s not a whole lot to Nago Pineapple Park from the outside looking in, but there is something magical about it. Travelers can learn a little bit about the modern culture, and the past of Okinawa, which can be really different from mainland Japan. It was a fun stop for us, that didn’t take up a ton of time, so there were still plenty of hours left in the day. Quirky food, music, and tropical surroundings – this was a nice little taste of Okinawa. We think it should definitely be on traveler’s Japan bucket lists, as much as any cat cafe!