Kouri island is a small island in northern Okinawa, connected by what was once the longest cross ocean beach in Asia. Kouri island has become a checkpoint for visitors, yet still relatively underdeveloped.
The color of the ocean under Kouri bridge is the symbolic blue and green mix of the tropical Okinawa sea. Under direct sunlight, it is so beautiful that it’s compared to the mythical creature in the Okinawa folk tale.
Kouri bridge connecting Okinawa main island and Kouri island
It’s believed that there was a creature from the sea which feeds on the soul of man. If the beast spotted a man on the beach, it would lure him by appearing as a beautiful young woman standing in the middle of the ocean. She is so beautiful that her face cannot be forgotten once looked at. The man would come back to the beach every day, hoping to meet the beautiful woman again. When she appears in the middle of the sea, the man would walk towards her. Once inside its hunting range, the creature revealed its real face and pulled the man further into the ocean. After the man’s soul was taken, the beast returned to the beach to find another victim. The Ryukyu king found out about the soul-eating creature and its crime against his people, he asked for the Ryukyu god for help (Okinawan people believe their god lives among people). God caught and killed the creature in human form while it was seducing a man into the ocean. The beast died as a beautiful woman. God sealed the beautiful woman at the bottom of the sea and her beauty has turned into the beautiful colors we see today under Kouri bridge.
It takes about ten minutes to drive around Kouri island. There are places where you will see signs pointing out to the ocean that reads “ハートロック” – Heart Rock in English. Follow the sign down the beach, and you will see many parking lots with a small pathway down to the beach. Congratulations, you just discover the most loving place in Okinawa. You will see two rocks out in the sea with the shape of a heart standing side by side. Kouri island is also known as the Island of Love because of these two rocks. Legend says that they were once two lovers trying to marry each other despite the disapproval of their family (families were formed by arranged marriage back in the days). They threaten to commit suicide by drowning in the ocean together. Again the Ryukyu god was touched by their love (Oh yeah, the Ryukyu god was a busy man), so he turned the couple into two heart rocks in the middle of the sea, so they can be together and never be separated by their families.
Heart Rocks on the island of love, Kouri Island, Okinawa.
Photo credit: Shelby Jo-Lynne Photography
The more realistic version of the story is the bottom of these rocks though, like many others in Okinawa, has been washed by the tide and wind for centuries. Thus, they appear as how they are today. With a little bit of human imagination, two ordinary rocks have turned into one of the most popular tourist spots in Okinawa.
While you are in the area, I recommend you also check out Churaumi Aquarium, which has the most massive seawater tank in Asia. Then stop by Motobu to learn about their famous fish, and get a taste of the Okinawa Aguu pork. You can also continue north to find wonderful fruits produced locally in Okinawa.
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**The information in this article is written by the designer of the Okinawa Story Map based personal experience. It does not aim to be 100% accurate or academically correct. Please enjoy the stories and feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this article.