German Village on Miyako Island
The tropical island of Miyako in the Okinawan prefecture offers all kinds of sights and cultural heritage. But one attraction is very special even though it does not really fit into the landscape of sugar cane fields, tropical beaches and coral reefs. As you drive down south along the coast of Miyako island, tall castle-like houses rise like in a fairy tale scenery. You have reached the German Culture Village in Ueno, Miyako City (うえのドイツ文化村)!
This amazing little park is dedicated to the story of a group of Germans who were saved by the islanders of Miyako in 1873. Sailors from the Province of Friesland, Deutschland were caught in a vicious storm on the coast of Miyako and suffered shipwreck. The locals of Miyako rescued the crew and saved their lives. Years later Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany erected a monument in Miyakojima to thank the islanders for their kindness and to honor their spirit of courage. In 1996 the German Disneyland in black, red, gold, how visitors often call the cultural village was built to remember their heroic act.
The park displays buildings in a traditional style as you can only find it in Europe today such as a German mansion, a country home and beautiful little half-timber houses (Fachwerkhaus) which are built and loved in Germany to this day. A replica of the German castle Marksburg is also featured, containing the "Museum of Philanthropy". This is the most impressive building of the park. I have never been to the Marksburg myself in my home country but when I entered the castle on Miyako I saw pictures and maps from the Original building and many Germans on the net exclaim that the Miyako version is true to her sister.
Even if you don't want to take the tour through the whole castle, you can enjoy some German snacks, culture and beer all around the town and on the first floor of the Marksburg. Me and my friends walked around the coast line and were amazed at the beautiful view of the area.
The idea of the German culture park is to combine the beauty of the island with a bit of German culture. It is a must-see on your visit to Miyako. Since the island is not big, the park is easily reached. It only takes about 15 minutes by car on the highway from the airport and 35 minutes from the Hirara Port. Parking is free, the admission for the Museum in the castle is 700 yen for adults and 400 yen for kids, if you want to go higher than the first floor.
The theme park also features an underwater observatory, boat rides, and a heated pool, which sadly weren't available when I went in January, since it was a rather rainy week. The boat ride costs a bit more. 2000 yen for adults and 1000 yen for kids I heard, but honestly, Miyako is worth every trip into the crystal clear water. The island is so stunning!
As a German, I was so happy to find a bit of my homeland's culture here all the way out in the Okinawan prefecture. It really is a piece of home for me and a great opportunity to learn about the ties between Japanese and Germans that were formed such a long time ago.