Skip to content



Photo: TARUMI Kengo

Yanbaru, as in the name of the bird, yanbarukuina. It is a green mountainous area in the northern part of Okinawa Island. This rustic-sounding name “Yanbaru” seems to refer to different places depending on the time period.

Currently, Yanbaru is generally understood to be pointing to the area north of Nago. However, originally the northern part of Kunigami District was referred to as “Yanbaru.” Kunigami District is located next to Yomitan Village, and it takes a little over an hour to reach by car from Naha. Yet it doesn’t have the atmosphere of the “Yanbaru”. It could be deduced that the boundary of Yanbaru has moved northward.

Unna Nabe was a famous poet of Ryukyuan verse in the first half of the 18th century. One of her poems reads, “Yanbaru nu narēya sashimakura nairanu...” which translates: “In the Yanbaru custom there is no sashimakura1 as there is in Shuri.” This suggests that Nabe of Onna2 Village thought of herself as living in Yanbaru. However, there are now many resort hotels in Onna Village, and there is no trace of Yanbaru at all. 

I think it better to call the hills north of Nago Yanbaru where trees like the itajī and tabu grow. In recent years, the broadleaf forest plant area is undergoing drastic change due to the construction of dams and so on. I wonder what will happen to this region…? 

I love the scenery of its itajī forest that stretches endlessly and I sometimes take myself to see the views. About 38 years ago, I visited an eccentric hermit who lives in the mountains of Ogimi Village. He had electricity and water, but I had no idea how far his house was from his neighbors because of the complexity of the forested hills blocking my view. He served me some deep-fried bird for lunch. While I appreciated the offer, the meat was tough with a strong flavor. When I finished eating, he simply said, “kuina.” I studiously left without asking him if it was a Yanbarukuina.

Editor’s Note:

  1. Box pillow
  2. UNNA is an Okinawa dialect pronunciation of Onna