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Less Than a Beer: A Tale of Two Capes

A group of tourists poses for a "selfie" photo in front of the unique coral rock formations on Cape Manzamo Aug. 11, 2015. The cape is one of Okinawa's most popular tourist destinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

A group of tourists poses for a "selfie" photo in front of the unique coral rock formations on Cape Manzamo Aug. 11, 2015. The cape is one of Okinawa's most popular tourist destinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Visitors to Okinawa's Cape Zanpa, just a 20-minute drive from Kadena Air Base, will find this statue of Taiki, the Okinawan man who is believed to have opened tributary trade with China in the 14th century, pointing out past a 100-foot lighthouse toward the East China Sea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Visitors to Okinawa's Cape Zanpa, just a 20-minute drive from Kadena Air Base, will find this statue of Taiki, the Okinawan man who is believed to have opened tributary trade with China in the 14th century, pointing out past a 100-foot lighthouse toward the East China Sea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Tourists snap photos of the weather-battered coral rock cliffs at Cape Manzamo June 13, 2015. The cape is one of Okinawa's most popular tourist destinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Tourists snap photos of the weather-battered coral rock cliffs at Cape Manzamo June 13, 2015. The cape is one of Okinawa's most popular tourist destinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- (Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories built on the challenge of "less than a beer." The goal is to provide the Kadena Air Base community with information on interesting places to explore on Okinawa that are cheaper to visit than buying one beer.)

Incredible ocean views, a gigantic replica of a mythical "shisa," and enough room for 10,000 people to picnic? Sounds like the perfect recipe for another completely free Okinawa adventure.

Whenever we have visitors, we like to introduce them to Okinawa on a quick tour of two of our nearby tourist spots: Cape Zanpa and Cape Manzamo, which both hug the island's west coast.

The capes are close enough to Kadena that you can easily visit them both in an afternoon, and they offer beautiful backdrops for photos.

Cape Zanpa

Cape Zanpa is only about a 20-minute drive from Kadena, not too far from the U.S. Army's Torii Station.

It's famed for its sprawling Zanpamisaki Park that features a picturesque 100-foot lighthouse perched on craggy coral cliffs, a replica of an old Okinawan ship the kids can play on, and a gigantic statue of a shisa.

If you're new to Okinawa, you might be asking yourself, "What the heck is a shisa?" The shisa, a mythological lion-dog, is often seen on Okinawan rooftops or guarding entryways. It's believed to help ward off evil spirits.

While the shisa are usually featured in pairs, one with an open mouth to ward off evil spirits and the other with a closed mouth to keep in good spirits, there's only one at Zampa. But it makes up for it by being the biggest shisa I've seen on Okinawa.

Sitting slightly inland from the lighthouse is a statue of Taiki, the Okinawan man who is believed to have opened tributary trade with China in the 14th century.

Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo is further north in the village of Onna. It's one of the most popular tourist spots on Okinawa, so expect plenty of company if you're headed that way.

During my most recent visit, we found ourselves behind about 20 cars waiting for a spot in the jam-packed parking lot.

The cape was named when an 18th century king visited and said it appeared that there was enough room for 10,000 people to sit on the bright green grass bluffs overlooking the 100-foot cliffs and dazzling waters below.

The name makes more sense with a bit of knowledge of the Japanese kanji writing system. The kanji used for the first three letters, "man" means 10,000; the kanji for "za" means to sit; and "mo" means field. So Manzamo can be translated to "field where 10,000 people can sit."

The views are beautiful, and you'll have to wait your turn to snap a photo of the weather-battered coral rock cliffs. Most notable is the "elephant trunk," a gigantic coral column with waves crashing below.

Getting to Cape Zanpa:
- Exit Kadena Gate 1 and turn right onto Route 58.
- Drive 6.5 kilometers, and turn left onto Route 6.
- Drive 10 kilometers, following the signs for Cape Zanpa.

Getting to Cape Manzamo:
- Exit Kadena Gate 1 and turn right onto Route 58.
- Drive 22.5 kilometers, and turn left onto local Route 58 (not the bypass).
- Drive 2.2 kilometers, and turn left at the stoplight. (Watch for Cape Manzamo signs)
- Drive 700 meters to the parking lot.