One does not usually consider Japan when planning for a beach holiday or scouting for scenic beaches to visit. Hence, it may come as a surprise to some that Miyakojima, located far south of Okinawa, Japan has arguably some of the most beautiful beaches in the region.
While visiting Okinawa early this year, I took the opportunity to make a two-day-two-night trip to Miyakojima for a quick getaway and to visit some of its famed beaches. Given that it was winter in Japan, it was an off-season for a beach holiday which meant there were very few tourists. Nonetheless, the weather was nice and warm to cycle on my own around the island with a cool breeze blowing.
Sunayama Beach, which means ‘Sand Mountain Beach’, is a small beach located at the bottom of a small sand hill, as hinted by its name. It took me about half an hour to cycle from Miyakojima’s main city of Hirara. I loved the journey to the beach itself — I felt like an explorer treading into the unknown and eagerly awaiting to find treasure at the end of the tunnel. A narrow and gently inclined sand path flanked by vegetation on both sides was the only form of approach to the beach. It was all rather curious that I should be heading uphill to a beach and that I saw nothing but tall grass to my side.
When I reached the peak of the path, the mystery unveiled itself. From where I stood, I was treated to the full visual spectacle that was Sunayama Beach at the bottom of the sand dune I had been trekking.
The waves were not particularly strong. While there didn’t seem be many activities to do there, one could easily spend an hour or so just lazing by the waterfront with a book and getting a good tan. There was also a picturesque stone arch formation to the side of Sunayama Beach that offered considerable shade for weary travellers.
When exiting the beach back up and down the hill, one must try the “mango juice” sold by a Japanese man in his 40s, from a makeshift stall from the back of his van, near the exit. The “mango juice” which was a concoction of crushed ice with mango juice and frozen mango fruit cubes topped with mango ice-cream and puree, was delectably sweet and refreshing.
Yonaha-Maehama Beach is on the southwestern side of Miyakojima. My first thought about the beach was “pure blue, all so blue”. Pristine blue waters backed by an equally clear azure sky. There were scant tourists at Yonaha-Maehama Beach. I’ve heard the place is usually packed with tourists during summer. But at that moment, it was simply perfect – minimal people, maximum scenery and all serenity.
What I loved about Yonaha-Maehama Beach was this sense of tranquillity about it. To my left was the long Kurima Bridge that linked to Kurimajima which served as a nice compliment to the surroundings when juxtaposed against the sky and the water. To my right, there was just an endless stretch of white sand, glimmering water and azure sky. The water was cold, but I would have jumped right in if I had my swimming attire on. These days, it is difficult to find crystal clear waters with no sign of ships or machinery polluting the water in the background and no burgeoning tourist crowds.
By the end of the day, I managed to catch a few more sights around the island including the Miyako Shrine and Ueno German Culture Village. I got a nice tan along the way too. But my most lasting impressions of Miyakojima would most definitely be its beaches for their fine sand, crystal water and that sense of calmness radiated by their beauty.