I want to go to Miyakojima!
It's decided to be sunny today...and so it should-we got a LOT of rain yesterday! It's going to get hot though, now they're saying that it could get as high as 30C around lunchtime. The rest of the week is looking slightly cooler with highs in the mid to high 20s and a mix of sun and clouds practically every day.
Can you believe I've never been to Okinawa?! Whenever I'm feeling the need to see some sand and surf, it means going to another country, but after reading about Miyako, I might be singing a different tune next winter.
Miyakojima is Okinawa’s fourth largest island is one of hundreds in a chain that extends 1,000 kilometers across the East China Sea. Formerly known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, the area once prospered as an independent territory with its own unique language and way of life.
The archipelago’s location helped it flourish in the 14th century as a trading partner of China and territories as far away as Indonesia and the Malacca Straits. The Ryukyuan people were already a melting pot of Mongolian, Ainu, and Malay cultures, and continued to borrow from their new neighbors in creating their own crafts, music, and dance.
Three hundred years later, the Tokugawa shogunate absorbed the Ryukyu archipelago as Japan’s 47th prefecture, and renamed it Okinawa. Japan used its new prefecture as a safeguard to its southern approach during World War II, at the close of which Okinawa was brought under the administrative rule of the United States. The island was returned to Japan on 15 May 1972, but the U.S. still maintains Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, and Army bases on the islands.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve the defenses of the Nansei Islands, the Japanese government recently implemented a plan to deploy Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Miyakojima. If so, I definitely want to go before they actually send troops there to live.
A patchwork of sugarcane fields and mangrove forests, edged with white-sand beaches that give way to a tourmaline sea, the island is currently an untouched paradise. The main business and entertainment district of Hirara and the three bridges that extend from the island’s belly to smaller ones offshore are the only real marks of civilization.
What to do
Marine activities are Miyakojima’s biggest draw for me-after my experience scuba diving in Bali, I want to try it out again. The best place for swimming is Yonaha Maehama. It is the island’s biggest and longest swimming beach, offering beautiful views of the Kurima Bridge and surrounding nature with yachting, boating, kite-boarding, and jet-skiing opportunities. Visit the smaller, secluded Sunayama Beach to see its famous rock archway and untouched coves on either side.
If you can get past the venomous jellyfish and poisonous sea snakes (not me, thanks), the waters on the east side of Miyakojima are famous for their abundance of coral life and swarms of colorful fish. You can rent a mask and flippers at Yoshino Beach, where you can enjoy some of the best snorkelling the island has to offer.
A drive across Irabu Ohashi, the longest toll-free bridge in Japan, will take you to the island of its namesake, which boasts over 100 diving sites. Irabujima is known for its extensive network of underwater arches and limestone caves. South of Sawada Beach, you can also witness a unique style of fishing called “katsu.” Here, fish are caught in special traps made of stone walls that work with the rhythm of the tides.
Back on the main island, visit Painagama Beach next to Hirara Port at dusk for spectacular sunsets and night swimming.
I'll be sure to try some goya, the region’s bitter cucumber-like vegetable, and the island’s speciality sugarcane juice. If anyone wanst anything from Okinawa other than a pair of shiisa statues—a traditional Ryukyuan decoration resembling a mythological part-lion, part-dog creature that is believed to ward off evil spirits—let me know, because that's the only souvenir I can think of from Okinawa.
Where to stay
Miyakojima is home to several luxury accommodations, including Shigira Resort, which boasts three hotels, a golf course, natural hot springs, and a selection of restaurants. But you can’t beat Tsurumiso Guest House for the price. The two-story hostel in Hirata offers both private and shared rooms, and is just a 10-minute walk from Painagama Beach.
While a guest house is tempting for meeting up with other travellers, I think if I were to go for only a couple of days, I'd prefer the relaxing and pampered experience of staying at a resort full of amenities.
Now I only have to do two things, win the lottery and plan my vacation! Ha ha!
Have a great day!