6 Outlying Islands Where You Can Embrace Okinawa’s Nature and Traditions
There are many people that believe the true pleasure of a trip to Okinawa is going to the outlying islands. Those islands are full of charms, including blue seas and lots of nature. Here are 6 islands to consider adding to your itinerary.
Ishigakijima is about 400km south of the main island of Okinawa. Both the colors of the ocean and the fragrance of the flowers are rich and vivid. Ishigakijima is often considered the entryway to the Yaeyama Islands, the archipelago that is part of the prefecture of Okinawa. Its best asset is how clear the waters are. For people who want to see coral and tropical fish, this is the place to go! If you go snorkeling in the nearby waters, you can have fun finding yourself being surrounded by schools of tropical fish. Also, Ishigakijima's beach is extremely romantic at dusk, so it's very popular with couples. It's not just the ocean, though. Lately, their starry night tour has been gaining a lot of attention. It's said that Ishigakijima has the most beautiful night sky in Japan! This is an island to go to if you want to immerse yourself in the nature of Okinawa's outlying islands.
The Ryukyu Islands stretch in a bow shape from the northeast to the southwest, and Miyakojima is almost smackdab in the middle. Its 290km southwest of the main island of Okinawa (of Naha, specifically) and 45km northeast of Ishigakijima. Miyakojima's most recommended place is Yonahama Maehama Beach, sometimes called the most beautiful beach in the Orient. The contrast between its 7km stretch of fine, pure white sand and the sparkling cobalt blue ocean makes for a very popular area. It's highly recommended for people who want to take postcard-like photos in front of a bright blue ocean or those who want to upload beautiful photos on social media. Miyakojima is also connected by bridges to other islands, including Ikemajima, an island famous for its ethnographically designated sacred spots, and Kurimajima, an island where you can take in the easy-going Okinawan hometown atmosphere. Why not rent a car to enjoy seeing the other islands after taking a nice stroll around Miyakojima?
Kourijima is a small island north of the main island of Okinawa surrounded by emerald green waters. In 2005, the bridge connecting it to its neighbor Yagajijima was completed, and now you can go between islands by car. There are heart-shaped rocks on the island's Teenu Hama called the Heart Rock that has recently become very popular thanks to being used in a commercial featuring a popular Japanese idol group. This island is said to be where the Okinawan version of Adam and Eve occurred, and because of that Kourijima is sometimes called "the island of love". It's not hard to get to from the main island and it has all the best parts of small islands, so it's a perfect getaway for lovers that want to enjoy their relationship on one of the southern islands! There are many fashionable cafes on the island as well! Why not travel around the island on rented bikes?
Taketomijima is about 10 minutes away by high-speed boat from Ishigakijima, and is part of the Yaeyama islands. All of the villages are made up of wooden buildings with red tile roofs and white sand roads, keeping the perfect Okinawa town scenery. This is an island for people who want to see not just blue seas but also experience the halcyon days of Okinawa! It's a small island that you can travel the diameter of in just half a day, but something that you must see is the Nishisanbashi Pier. This limestone and concrete pier is designated as a national tangible cultural property, and it's known for its beauty in the evenings. Why not get accommodations for the night and spend the evening enjoying the sight? They carefully preserve the towns and the local culture, so this is an island where you can experience a variety of things. The Okinawan beauty that everyone wants to protect is here!
Kumejima is about 35 minutes away by airplane from Naha, and about 3 hours away by ferry. It is an island that once flourished as an important spot for trade, so it's a leading sightseeing spot even among the islands of Okinawa. One of the most popular spots is the Hate no Hama, which is 3 reefs of about 7km long reef off the eastern coast of Kumejima, Oujima, and Ohajima. Around Hate no Hama is beautiful sight of the emerald green waters of the ocean the pure white sand, making it a true healing spot. It's so beautiful that it's been used as movie locations before. Hate no Jima is about 30 minutes away by boat from Kumejima, and there are various tours including glass boats or snorkeling tours that you can enjoy. This is definitely something to try once!
Lying 32km west of Naha, Tokashikijima is the biggest island in the Kerama Island chain. The island's main attraction is Kerama Blue, a beach with incredibly blue, clear waters. The waters are so clear that you can see straight through 10m deep, so you can enjoy the blue waters even while you're actually in them. Kerama Blue captures the hearts of many people, so it's a mecca for marine sports, especially diving. Also, 60% of the 250 kinds of Japanese coral can be found living on Tokashikijima! It's something that you'll want to see even if you're not a diver! It's something you can enjoy a lot just by snorkeling, so please check it out. In March of 2014, the Kerama Islands were designated as a national park, so it will continue to become more and more popular.
It's said that the Okinawan seas are one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each of the outlying islands has their own lovely individualities, so please come explore them for yourself.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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