【2018 Edition】Must-See for Beginners! Things to Know Before Exploring Okinawa’s Remote Islands
The remote islands of Okinawa are places where you can relax while surrounded by a beautiful environment that is created by the blue sea and tranquil environment. However, since they are remote islands, you have to exercise caution about many things. So, read this article and have a more enjoyable time exploring them!
If You’re Going to Okinawa, Touring the Remote Islands is Recommended
Okinawa is one of the leading resort areas in Japan. While you can fully experience this appeal just by staying in the mainland, since you went all the way to visit the region already, why not go a little farther to get a glimpse of the remote islands (“rito” in Japanese)?
There are 160 islands in the vast ocean surrounding Okinawa, and 148 of them are remote islands. Aside from mainland Okinawa, the islands are distributed widely across the prefecture, including Miyako Islands that are located about 300km southwest of the mainland, and Yaeyama Islands that are situated west of the mainland.
The ocean surrounding these remote islands is extremely clear, treating visitors to more beautiful scenes. There are also islands where you can enjoy the uniquely blue color of the ocean, including Miyako Blue in the Miyako Islands and Kerama Blue in the Kerama Islands. These remote islands in Okinawa have their own distinctive attractions, so make sure to find the island that you like best!
Access to Okinawa's Remote Islands
The remote islands with great transportation facilities can only be accessed by air, including Kumejima, Miyakojima, Ishigakijima. There are also islands that are served by direct flights from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, as well as Taipei and Hong Kong, making it so easy to visit at any time.
On the other hand, there are also a lot of islands that can only be reached by boat. While there are islands that are only 15 minutes away from mainland Okinawa by high-speed boat, there are also islands that can't be reached unless you ride a ferry or high-speed boat from other islands, like Miyakojima and Ishigakijima. For instance, Tonakijima, which floats around 58km northwest of Naha, is only served by ferries 1-2 times a day. There are only four lodging facilities there, but this island is considered as a little-known spot that is visited by few tourists. The charm of this island is that you can relax and unwind while gazing at the gorgeous ocean and the townscape, which has been designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
Important Reminders When Visiting the Remote Islands
Planes and ships that go to these islands generally have only a few flights and trips in a day. If you miss your flight or trip, then you may be unable to leave the island until the next day. With that in mind, make sure to leave some time to spare when making your itinerary.
Okinawa is said to be soaked in ultraviolet rays that are 1.5 times stronger than in Tokyo at the height of summer. Sunburn can turn into a real burn, and this has led to many tourists ending up in the hospital, so be careful! When swimming in the ocean during the day, make sure to use a beach umbrella or something to protect you from the sun. The surface of the water magnifies the sun, so protect your skin by wearing protective gear like a rash guard. Furthermore, when walking on the streets, you should wear something that blocks the sun, such as a hat.
Okinawa is characterized by the many typhoons that hit the region. Around 25 - 26 typhoons are said to hit Japan in a year, but 7-8 of those land in Okinawa. The most number of typhoons occur in August, but in Okinawa, the typhoon season is from May - October. Typhoons that occur on the southern seas sustain their strength or approach the region while further building up their strength, causing major damage. When planes and ships cancel their services, it could affect your trip schedule, so it would be best to gather information about the weather early on.
It is not unusual for any remote island to only have one hospital. So, it is recommended to bring familiar medicines for treating minor illnesses, such as colds, headaches, and stomachaches.
Many of the remote islands do not have banks or ATMs, so it is imperative that you exchange your money to yen in advance. There may be post offices on all the islands, but only those in Miyakojima and Ishigakijima can exchange foreign currencies. Please note that what currencies a shop handles will differ from store to store.
From July 2018, efforts will be rolled out in Miyako-jima to ensure that almost all taxis, as well as facilities like selected eating and drinking establishments, lodgings, tours, and hospitals will be able to handle credit cards.
If it is a small island, chances are that there are virtually no restaurants or shops around. You won’t have a problem if your lodging facility comes with meals, but you need to be careful if you are staying overnight without meals. Even if you search for shops using guidebooks or the Internet, note that some places have unannounced holidays or close early. To prepare for that, it would be best to ask for information about shops from the people in the inn where you are staying, or pack some food and drinks before you get to the island.
If you plan to visit the remote islands of Okinawa, then please use this article as a reference when building your itinerary.
*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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