Ikei Beach; Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Ikei Beach; Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Take a long trip to Ikei, Okinawa’s ‘farthest island’

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

What once required a two-hour boat ride from Okinawa’s Katsuren Peninsula, a visit to “Ichihanari,” or the “farthest island,” now takes less than 30 minutes on the Kaichu Doro Causeway.

The causeway connects Henza and Miyagi Islands before it reaches the farthest island, now known as Ikei, a must-see when visiting the area.

Ikei Beach on the southwestern coast of the island is host to year-round swimming and water activities. This is a great spot for taking a ride on a banana boat, wakeboarding, flyboarding and more. Since this is an inlet, the waters are relatively calm and make for great swimming.

Oodomari Beach, about a five-minute drive away, is another gem with a 1,968-foot shore and great snorkeling due to the many tropical fish that live in the waters there. This beach used to be called “mama-san’s beach” by U.S. servicemembers, according to a staff member working at the beach.

Take note, both Ikei and Oodomari Beaches charge a usage fee, but also have shower rooms and restrooms on site. Ikei Beach has a restaurant, which serves up Okinawa soba noodles, ginger pork, a combo of fried egg and pork, and more. At the reception desk of Oodomari Beach, visitors can buy food such as curry and taco rice.

Aside from offering stunning beaches, Ikei Island is known for its many historical sites.

One of these spots is Nakabaru Ruins, only a few minutes from both beaches. Discovered in 1978, the ruins date back about 2,000 to 2,500 years.  Earthenware such as pots and vases, stone axes and accessories made from seashells were excavated at this location. According to an Uruma City brochure, 23 pit dwelling houses were found there. Five of them were restored with lime-rocked walls and thatched roofs, offering a glimpse back in time. Other historic sites on Ikei include shell mounds, caves and a fountain.

Near Ikei beach, continue your trip back in time with a stroll around the traditional Okinawan homes still in use today. In the autumn, this community is host to “Ichihanari Art Project,” an annual art festival. During this season, the old streets and houses are adorned with artwork ranging from statues, dolls, mural paintings, fabric, photos and more.

As with the other remote islands, life on Ikei was not an easy one due to scarcity of fresh water. An old local folk ballad speaks of a girl who laments the lack of water by saying “Although I want to marry into (a family of) Ikei Island, scooping water out of a well must be very painstaking.”

According to a report by Okinawa Prefectural Museum, people on the Island made living by agriculture and fisheries. They often ventured to distant seas, maneuvering fast ships during the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879) and Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras.

Today, water is no longer the difficult resource to attain as it once was, and tourism is thriving for Ikei. Memories of the past, however, are preserved on the island, making it a fun and interesting destination.

Though it may be the furthest island, Ikei is not one you’ll want to miss during your stay in Okinawa.

 

Ikei Beach 
GPS Coordinates: N 26.388191, E 127.991157
Admission: 600 yen (about $5.68) for adults; 300 yen for ages between 5 and 12; free admission for 4 years and under.
Website: http://www.ikei-beach.com/

Oodomari Beach
GPS Coordinates: N 26.393671, E 127.991055
Admission: 500 yen for adults; 300 yen for children
Website: http://www.oodomari.com/

Nakabaru Ruins 
GPS Coordinate: N 26.391372, E 127.994759

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