Sculptures help promote Nakamura-ya in Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Sculptures help promote Nakamura-ya in Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

If you’ve traveled out of Camp Foster’s Legion Gate and east on Route 81 you may have spotted some terracotta figures along the south end of the base. 

Some look like creatures or dogs, cats or pigs, while others take the form of tools or vehicles such as a door, a shoe, or car. Some of them take more abstract forms more like art pieces than anything specific. You’ll find the island’s coveted shisa guardian dog-lions among them as well.

These figures are part of the “Choukoku Kajimaya Keikaku” project to promote the Kitanakagusuku Village. Each of these terracotta sculptures were made by students of the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. You’ll find more of these scattered around Oogusku near the Nakagusuku Castle, a great place to visit with a lot of history and a designation for having one of Japan’s best streets for a cultural walking tour. 

Kitanakagusuku Village is known for the longevity of its female residents amongst all 1,888 of Japan’s municipalities in 2015. The terracotta project was to honor that designation. In total, there are 99 terracotta figures for the public to enjoy which were installed over a 10-year time period beginning in 2004. The number 99 also holds special meaning as it coincides with the age for Hakuju, the final milestone to celebrate longevity.

In Okinawa, longevity is celebrated with Kajimaya, a local tradition to celebrate 96-year-olds. 

Enjoy some art and local history without even getting out of the car! Once you’ve spotted these, don’t forget to add the nearly 80 more you need to spot in Kitanakagusuku Village.

Terracotta on Route 81 
GPS Coordinate (west-end): N 26.296389, E 127.781446 (Near Region Gate and Gate 1 of Camp Foster) 

GPS Coordinates: N 26.289867, E 127.800552
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays) 

Admission: 500 yen for adult, 300 yen for middle and high school student, 200 yen for elementary school student, free admission for those who are below elementary school age. 
*Free parking space available

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