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February 16, 2018 - Southern Odyssey - Ie Island
Ie Island is located around a 25 minute ferry ride from Motobu Port in the North West Coast of Okinawa's main island and feels as though it's a world away from the rest of this highly developed island. For my second day on Okinawa, I travelled to Ie Island in the morning to slow things down just a bit.
To reach Ie Island, the only real option is to catch a ferry. In winter it leaves 4 times a day and this increases to a whole 5 trips a day in the summer. Do note that parking can be a problem as many people leave their main car on the main island side to get to work. It costs 720 yen one way or 1,370 yen return. There is no designated seating but there are certain times of the year when it gets busy (Lily Season, Iris Season, Marathon etc...)
Even though I seemed to be the only non-Japanese tourist on the island, there are signs in English all over the island and it's possible to hire a bike or car directly opposite the ferry terminal. Note that the ferry terminal also has many english pamphlets and maps on things to do around the island. It costs 1000 yen to hire a bike for the day.
The first thing that you'll notice about this island is the quietness and lack of traffic and normal people noise. Apart from the wind and birds, the most common sound is the 'moo' from the cows on the island.
My first stop for the day was Niya-thiya Cave, a large cave which is meant to be sacred to the locals and a place where many people hid when the island was invaded during World War 2. It should be noted that some of the bloodiest battles happened on this island and the scars can still be seen in places.
One of the things I have noticed on Okinawa is the different types of tombs people have for the deceased - it's much different than the mainland and are found all around Ie Island and Okinawa Island.
One of the main problems with this island is many of the main attractions are located close to the main hill - which means most of the riding is up hill! My second short stop was The Monument of Hokon, which commemorates the dead of WW2.
My third stop for the day was the Shimamuraya Tourist Park was costs 300 yen to enter. The park itself does not have that much in it, apart from a small museum with 'stuff' and a small grassed area with a very photo-worthy view of Mt Gusuku.
As mentioned previously, the scars of WW2 can be seen here. It should be noted that around 15% of the island is a training facility for the US Army.
My last stop on Ie Island was Mt Gusuku which takes 541 steps to reach the top. It's around 260 reasonably easy steps to the first lookout (it's also drivable to this location).
Half way up the hill is a large car park with gift shop and other facilities. Even in winter, the sun here can pack a bit of a punch and that's coming from an Australian!
The second half of the climb was not overly difficult, but the stairs are small and reasonably steep. It's also not a good place for people who may suffer from heights which can be seen from some of the photos below...
View from the summit. It should be noted that I only explored a small section of the island today and there is still a lot more to be explored. I felt as though the island was quite hilly - but it ended up being that I travelled to the only hill part of the island!
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed myself on Ie Island but I wished that I slowed down a bit and stayed on the island for the whole day. However, I did plan on visiting the Ocean Expo Park in the afternoon which is one of the major attraction on Okinawa. As such, this will be my next post.
Ie Island English Pamphlet: http://www.iejima.org/document/2015012300015/file_contents/ie-island-en.pdf