Monday, April 11, 2005

Okinawa Part 2 - Miyako-jima

After a thoroughly pleasant four days in Naha, Flick and I boarded an overnight ferry down to the tiny island of Miyako. To be honest, we were getting a bit bored of Naha by the time we left - the cafes, shops and bars were fantastic, but we were itching to get to the beach, and away from all the military bases and concrete.

After a nine hour sea journey on a packed ferry we were dumped, unceremoniously, at Hirara port, the capital city of Miyako. At 4.15am. In the pouring rain. We had nowhere to stay, since the only 24hour hostel was full, so we were forced to spend the early morning hours curled up on a bench in the ferry terminal. I think next time more forward planning may be in order...

Things got a lot better after that though - we found a really cheap and funky hostel, the rain stopped (and held off for the rest of our stay), and pretty soon we were sunning ourselves on the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen.

The most famous beach in Miyako is Maehama. It's widely praised as having the best sand and sea in Japan, and has a massive resort complex to cater for all the tourists seeking out the number one beach in Nippon. It was our first port of call, and it was definitely worthy of its reputation - it certainly put Bournemouth to shame, let me tell you.

But the best beach in Japan? Definitely not. On our second day in Miyako we rented a car to do some thorough exploration of the coastline. It didn't take long - the island is only 35km across at its widest point - but there were dozens and dozens of stunning beaches, most of which were absolutely deserted.

It seems that a lot of the tourists who come to Miyako just stay in their resort hotel, and don't really bother checking out the rest of the island, which is a shame. The resort beaches are good, but the more out-of-the-way beaches were like snapshots of paradise.

I really loved Miyako-jima, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's thinking of making a trip to Okinawa. I loved Naha, but if I went again I'd definitely spend less time there and more time checking out the isolated islands further south. On Miyako it was difficult to believe I was still in Japan: it's mad to think that two months ago I was checking out ice sculptures in Hokkaido, in -5 degree temperatures, and last week I was sunning myself on a tropical beach - and it was all in the same country!

7 Comments:

Blogger lemaiz said...

So what's with all the military bases then? Do you know the history?

7:38 pm  
Blogger Lewis said...

Well, it's quite a complex and long history... but to put it in a nutshell, America wanted to keep a strong military presence in Okinawa after World War Two because it was strategically imnportant for the Korean and Vietnam war. In fact, although Japan regained self-rule in 1951, America didn't give Okinawa back to Japan until 1972. Nowadays, Okinawa is still important because it's so close to Taiwan, so American troops can be on hand to intervene if China decides to repatriate the country. Plus, Japan only has a tiny army (the Self-Defence Force) due to the treaty after WW2, so, in the unlikely event that Japan is attacked, the American military may be called upon to defend the country (although I don't know exactly what arrangements the two countries have for this scenario).

However, a lot of Okinawans oppose the military bases, since Okinawa has a disproportionate number of US bases compared to the rest of Japan. On the other hand though, the Okinawan government gets paid huge amounts of compensation from Tokyo to keep the bases, without which the Okinawan economy could be severely affected...

There's loads more to it, but this is already an absurdly long comment, so have a look at this website if you want to know more: http://rca.open.ed.jp/web_e/history/story/hisindex5.html

9:38 am  
Blogger The Funky Drummer said...

Looks like some real nice beaches down south. I'll definaltey have to check these out sometime soon.

12:16 pm  
Blogger lemaiz said...

Trivia king, memory like a sponge. Cheers Lew!

5:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

headed to miyako jima for golden week. really cant wait. i am only staying in naha one night in transit on the way there and again on the way back. interesting to stumble upon this entry. cheers.

12:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear sir,
thanks for your write up on Miyakojima.
I will be heading there for GW with my girlfriend.
We want to camp, for free, on some of the beaches, for a few days. Not sure what the official rules are, but am wondering what your take is on, just showing up, pitchin a tent in a more remote part, etc. Do you think we would meet resistance from local authorities?
Please email me your opinion.
Regards,
B
PS: Im a JET

9:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry,
my email address is Bobakd@hotmail.com

9:50 am  

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