Beauty of Ryukyus on full display at Kume Island

Photo by Shoji Kudaka
Photo by Shoji Kudaka

Beauty of Ryukyus on full display at Kume Island

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Japan

Editor’s Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some locations may have different admission measures in place. Please plan ahead if and when you decide to travel. Follow safety guidelines set by your base and always remember to practice proper hand-washing and social distancing.

 

If you head west from Okinawa, you’ll soon come across an island so beautiful even its name reflects that beauty.

Kume Island, as it’s known today, was also known as Kumi no Shima during the Ryukyu Kingdom. This epithet literally means an island of the beauty of the Ryukus.

A visit to this remote island with its sandy beaches, impressive reefs and delicious food will prove the Ryukyu name true.

Though it is a remote island 100 km west of Naha, There are two ways to reach Kume Island — a 40-minute flight or a 3.5-hour ferry ride from Naha. Whichever way you choose to get there, it will definitely be worth your while.

Eef Beach on the east coast, named one of Japan’s best 100 beaches by “Nihon no Mori, Taki, Nagisa, Zenkoku Kyogi-kai”, a nationwide conference composed of municipalities with forests, waterfalls, and beaches, is an example of the beauty and worth the trek to get here. The 2-kilometer-long sandy beach is a great place for a stroll in the low tide. Hate no hama, another of Kume’s exceptional beaches, offers unobstructed sea views and closeup looks at sand reefs via a 20-minute boat ride.

Connected to the island’s eastern coast, Ojima isle is also host to an extraordinary beach. Tatamiishi’s sandy shore evokes a sense of wonder with a flat hexagonal and pentagonal coastline. This curious landscape is thought to have been made by lava which cooled into these amazing shapes.

If getting a bird’s eye view is more your pace, Hiyajo-banta, a cliff 200 meters above the surface, will provide what you’re looking for. Located on the northeast coast of the island, this cliff offers a superb view of the beautiful ocean and, if weather permits, views of Aguni, Tonaki, and even Kerama islands.

Uegusuku Castle Ruins, up on Uegusuku-dake, a 310-meter-tall mountain, also offer some great views and are at the highest elevation among all the castle ruins in Okinawa. Uegusuku Castle of the Ryukyu Kingdom was the centerpiece of the island’s position in trade and commerce with China, Korea, and other Southeast Asian countries.

Kume Island is also known for having some amazing local food products like mangos, pineapples, miso soybean paste, and more. Shrimp from the region, however, is at the top of the list. Shrimp farming started in the 1970s on Kume Island and today it is the largest producer in the nation. At local restaurants, fresh seafood is served up in various ways such as garlic shrimp, shrimp burgers and shrimp soba.

Kume Island is as rich in natural wonders and delicious food as it is in beauty. The island awaits to dazzle both your eyes and taste buds and is definitely one that should be on every island-hopper’s bucket list.

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