Miyako-jima island

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Miyako-jima  is the largest and the most populous island among the Miyako Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Miyako-jima is administered as part of the City of Miyakojima, which includes not only Miyako-jima, but also five other populated islands.
Geography :  Miyako-jima lies approximately 300 kilometres (190 mi) southwest of Okinawa Island and 400 kilometres (250 mi) east of Taipei, Taiwan. With an area of 158.70 square kilometres (61.27 sq mi), Miyako is the fourth-largest island in Okinawa Prefecture. The island is triangular in shape and is composed of Ryukyuan limestone. Miyako-jima is subject to drought and is frequently struck by typhoons.

Miyako-jima is well known for its beauty, particularly the Eastern Cape , which is considered by many as one of the most beautiful spots in Japan. Other notable locations include Maehama beach, the German Cultural Center, Painagama Beach, and the sights on Irabu-jima. There are three islands close by which are connected by bridges to Miyako-jima, Irabujima (as of early 2015), Ikemajima , and Kurimajima . The Miyako language, one of several Ryukyuan languages, is spoken here.

Culture :  Miyako is home to a unique festival called Paantu , which occurs in the ninth month of the old (lunar) calendar. Three men dressed in grass, leaves and mud go walk around town smearing the mud on houses, cars and people. They carry sticks in one hand and an expressionless mask in the other. Legend holds that those who have been muddied by the Pantu will have a year of protection and good fortune. Owners of new homes will also invite Pantu to give a muddy ‘blessing’ to their homes.

Miyako has its own version of soba. Otori is a custom of drinking awamori, a distilled beverage native to Okinawa Japan. It is performed by people sitting (usually around a table). One offers a toast, drinks from a small glass, and then offers some to each person at the table making a round, and usually going to the right. When the toaster makes his way back to his spot the person who passed the otori before pours him another glass. He then announces “tsunagimasu” and drinks his second glass. After a brief interval, it is then the turn of the next person to pass the otori, which continues until the celebration is ended.

Access : Coordinates: 24.766667, 125.316667 / By plane :  Miyako Airport (MMY IATA) offers direct connections to Tokyo (Haneda), Naha and Ishigaki on JTA and Air Nippon. Chances are you will be transferring in Naha so consider spending some time on the main Okinawa Island as well. By ferry :  As of November 2008, there are no scheduled ferry services from outside the Miyako Islands

Highlights :

  • Beaches clockwise from Hirara Port: Sunayama is nice place to take a photo but not a particularly good place to swim. Drive 30 minutes north on Rt. 83 to Rt.230 and cross the bridge to Ikema. Get a drink at the tourist trap, climb up and look at the view. Continue clockwise around the island just to say you did it, and less than a kilometer from the tourist trap you will find two excellent beaches named after their prominent features, one called Rope and one called Block. There are no signs, but maybe a car or two parked beside the road. Block has some nice coral, just be careful of the currents.
    Next head way back south and east on Rt. 83 in the direction of Gusukube. On the way you will find Aragusuku, a great shallow beach with lots more fish and coral. Two groups rent stuff and sell refreshments during the summer months. Go to the left side and feel free to sit at the tables. The proprietress is the chamisen playing, occasionally booze drinking, beach loving Yasuyo-san. She also runs a nearby pension. Yoshino is another decent place a couple kilometers down the road. They’ve turned into devils though, charging ?500 for parking.
    Though it’s not technically a beach, follow the signs to Higashihenazaki is a picturesque point with a lighthouse. As it’s the easternmost point on the island, it is a popular place to watch the sun rise.
    Head back to Rt. 83 was in the direction of Bora and the very commercial Bora Beach Park. Stop in or continue west on Rt. 235 to Shigira a once wild place that has been taken over by mercenaries from Tokyo. The rocky beach is now manicured but still open to the public so you can bring your cooler and chill at their expense. The cove is fairly well protected, so a good option for kids or when the weather is bad. Swim out to the middle and just before the rock formation there are some anonome fish.
    Continue west on Rt. 235, cross the bridge to Kurima. Park in the lot on the left just after you cross and take the stone path 10 minutes to Tako. There are fish in the tide pool and lots more to see on the other side of the rocks, but be careful. Next stop Nagamahama. Follow the signs to ???, look for a couple cows tied to a tree. Park in the lot and walk to the ocean.
    Head back across the bridge, turn left and proceed to Maebama, Miyako’s most popular beach. Locals tend to hang out near the boat launch on the bridge side, though they also frequent Windy, a beach house serving Miyako-soba (¥500) and other very reasonably priced food. Maebama continues for almost 10K somewhere turning into the secluded kite-board spot Nishi-hama and then the slightly odd Sanitsu-hama. During low tides you can walk the beach from Maebama to Sanitsu-hama (just sneak through the Tokyu Hotel’s bogus private area) but there are also paved jogging trails on land.
    After leaving Sanitsu-hama take Rt. 390 from Shimoji back toward Hirara and Painagama Beach just before Hirara Port. Paiangama isn’t a particularly good beach by day, but convenient after a night on the piss. Just be safe!

Activities : Scuba diving is probably Miyako’s main attraction. Everyone on Miyako knows someone who “has a boat.” Usually they can get you a small discount or at least some priority. If you don’t like what one person says ask another. Aqua Story 482-1  The staff may or may not speak English, but this is a reputable dive shop
Kite-Boarding if you don’t know, is a huge kite in the sky and a board (usually) in the water with a crazy-ass fool in the middle. The water and wind near Maehama is great between November and April and cooperative throughout the year. For lodging, lessons, supplies, information or a friendly pissin’ match call Shu-san at: M-Air Kiteboarding, 233 Yonaha, Shimoji,
Barbecue almost anywhere you like but please leave the place cleaner than you found it.

Windy Maehama (Maehama Beach near the Tokyu Resort Hotel in Shimoji). Ask the owner (happy looking guy with glasses and usually a towel on his head) about having a sunset BBQ on the roof. About 2,000 per person, but confirm the price and menu if you are so inclined. BYOB may be possible.  Make your own Shi-Sa. /  Shi-Sa Monogatari, 246 Shimozato, Hirara (Across from Painagama Beach.),  Perfect for a rainy day. If you like what you create you can have it fired and shipped anywhere in Japan. 2,500.

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