OKINAWA

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Half dog, half lion. Shisa guard the gateways of many an Okinawan home or shrine. But you've never seen them like this before.

In many ways, Ishigaki is the stereotype of the gorgeous, tranquil tropical island surrounded by turquoise ocean, but these colourful shisa and Okinawan monsters are just some of the examples of the island's unique and spirited personality.

Just across the road from the turnoff for Yonehara beach is the Yonago-shō kōjō kimusā̄-kan sculpture park and gift shop. It's impossible to miss - huge, rainbow-coloured monsters loom in front of the entrance. Behind the gift shop is the quite sizable and pretty hilarious garden, in which all manner of quirky, vaguely-Okinawan style creatures abide. It's a great place to take some fun holiday photos and a nice pit stop on the way to/from snorkeling at the beach.

Walking around taking pictures would take somewhere between 20-45 minutes. It's completely free, has loads of parking, and is also on the bus route. I got the impression that the function of the sculpture garden was primarily to act as a tourist trap for the gift shop, but it was such an enjoyable diversion that I didn't mind.

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