Sotesu is the Japanese name for a plant common on the Okinawan islands. In English, the family is known as Cycad. It is the same kind of plant from which children used to make bug carriers. Weaving the pointed fronds together, islanders were able to make useful carrying cages for kabuta beetles and semi (cicedas). The roots were also useful as a last ditch food source.
Located in the Madomari Area between the Garcina Tree Median and the Houkadai Signal is a set of two very old Cycada trees. The trees are said to be planted between 250 and 300 years ago with lengths up to 4 and 6 meters. The tree is designated as a prefectural natural monument.
To find the trees, look for the familiar blue and white sign above the road pointing to the Giant Cycad. The sign points to a concrete wall and gate of a local residence in which the Cycad is located. You can enter, but please be aware that there is a 150 yen fee to help continue the upkeep and preservation of the trees. You can go up to the house to knock or call out "sumimasen" in order to pay.
During the American Occupation of the Ryukyu Islands, postage stamps were made featuring many of Okinawa's historic places. One of those stamps featured this location. Special thanks to the Ryukyu Philatelic Specialist Society for the image below and some of the information on this site.
Every May, a specific version of the Cycad turns a golden color for a short time. On Kume Island, the neighborhoods of Nishime, Ota, and Gushikawa have versions of these unique plants. Unfortunately since they are all in private residences it is not a feature many tourists are able to see.
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