Exploring Okinawa: Horses, butterflies, goats at Uruma Farm

Photo by Shoji Kudaka
Photo by Shoji Kudaka

Exploring Okinawa: Horses, butterflies, goats at Uruma Farm

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Ponies, horses, butterflies and more can be found all in one place on Okinawa.

The Uruma Farm Okinawa, only a 10-minute drive from the Ishikawa Exit on the Expressway, is a more-than-12-acre “farm for tourism” that is packed with family fun.

Located near the Ishikawa Multi-purpose Dome, a well-known venue for bullfighting, Uruma is meant to provide a hands-on experience of farming and ranching. The site includes farms for tropical fruits, ranches for livestock, a vinyl house for butterflies, and its biggest draw – Pony Park.

There’s even a yakiniku restaurant on site.

“Americans are always coming for our Pony Park,” said Satoshi Taira, Director of the facility. “Some of them come here for a birthday party for their kids. Many of them know a lot about horses from their experience with the animal in the states.”

At Pony Park, people get an opportunity to not only pet ponies, but there’s also horse riding available.  Prior experience is not required, and there is even horse riding classes for kids available, according to Akira Yamamoto, a staffer at the park.

For first-timers, a session typically starts with getting to know a horse. Before heading to the paddock, visitors can pet horses at the stable. It makes the horse happy and also gives people a chance to get a feel for how enormous animal’s muscles really are.

 “Some people are scared of the large animal at first, but the key to success in horseback riding is to make friends with the animal. Skills take a back seat,” said Yamamoto.

At Pony Park, people are encouraged to do more to better interact and understand the horses.

But, for those who are scared of the animal, they can start by simply touching and feeding them carrots, which are available for 200 yen.

I decided to take my first time ever horseback ride of my life, and hopped on the back of Hamu, a black gelding.

For a beginner like me, staying on the horse’s back was little bit of a challenge. With the back of the horse moving constantly under the saddle, my core muscles were tested the entire time. But, after adjusting to the horse’s rhythm, it felt like I was communicating with the animal.

“Each horse is different,” said Yamamoto as he led the horse for me. “It also depends on how you treat them. If you take good care of them, they will recognize that. They are sensitive animals.”

Thanks to Hamu, who stayed calm and gentle, I managed to safely complete my first ride.

More fun 

After enjoying Pony Park, families often make a stop at the farm’s gelato shop, according to Taira. Following the popular custom, I tried the cold treat after the horseback riding. Among the 16 flavors available, I picked three dedicated to local foods: passion fruits, Shikuwasa (Citrus depressa) and Chinsuko (Okinawan Cookie), all of which tasted great. I’d especially recommend the passion fruit which had the juicy taste of fresh fruits harvested on site, and a smooth and creamy texture.

Behind the gelato shop, there was a vinyl house called “Chou House” (butterfly garden), where butterflies were housed. Despite it not being peak season, I was surrounded by butterflies flying around me as I stood inside and took pictures.

There was also a ranch called “Yagisan no Niwa” (goat park) next to the butterfly house. Around 30 goats, ranging from small baby goats to big goats with long curly horns, were housed there. Visitors can feed them, and just like the Pony Park, Goat Park, was well maintained.

According to Taira, Uruma Farm Okinawa opened in 2017, after years of developing. It took him a while to develop the large facility full of fun, and nowadays he looks forward to sharing the fun with local Okinawans, Americans, and other visitors.

“This is a place where everybody from little kids to adults can have fun.” said the owner. “Please come and enjoy it.”

Uruma Farm Okinawa

- Address: 3355-1 Ishikawa, Uruma City, Okinawa 904-1106 

- Directions: Take exit 6 (Ishikawa) off Okinawa Expressway. Make a right at the first light and go west on route 73. Make a right to go on a road that runs by the Ishikawa Multi-purpose Dome. Pass by the parking lot of the dome and go up the road. The Uruma Farm will be to your right when you come close to the top of the hill.  

- Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Admission for horse riding 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m.); Restaurant open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

- Fees for horseback riding: 500 yen for a ride with the lead of a staff (a few rounds of the paddock); 2,000 yen for a 20-min. ride (kids); 3,000 yen for a 30-min. ride (adult)  

- URL: urumafarm.or.jp/

- Facebook: www.facebook.com/urumafarmokinawa/

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