No souvenir shops. No Family Marts. No traffic, or pollution, or bus loads of tourists. On Aka Jima, it’s just you and the endless ‘Kerama Blue’ – the name given to the fantastic turquoise of the waters. Wait, I almost forgot about the turtles nibbling on seaweed as you bob in the water, and the shy Kerama deer who wander through the gardens at dawn and dusk. You’ll have to share the island with them, too.
Aka Jima is truly a magical place, made so by its remoteness and small size. With only some 300 residents, it’s quiet, and peaceful, and life is blissfully slow. Just one hour by fast ferry from Naha, it should be a much more popular place for tourists, but Aka’s bigger neighbor, Zamami, is much more popular. Personally, I hope it stays that way, for very obvious and selfish reasons. After two nights on Aka, I did not want to leave, and once back in Naha I immediately found myself longing to be back in the tiny town where every narrow street leads to the ocean.
The village comprises just a few lanes running parallel to the beautiful Meinohama Beach, with many homes now converted into minshuku (guest houses) and dive shops. There are only two stores where you can buy general supplies — like cold beer and fresh fruit — and two or three tiny restaurants which serve mainly oki soba. So it is highly recommended to take the breakfast and dinner option at the minshuku while staying there, and enjoy the local specialties and freshly caught fish of the day.
In terms of exploring, the rocky Ama Beach just past the port is home to groups of turtles who go there every day to feed. According to our minshuku owner, you are guaranteed to see turtles there while snorkelling, and he was right. Ama Beach is accessible just a few minutes on bicycle, or foot.
But most visitors take the minshuku shuttle bus to head further up the island on the east side to the picture perfect Nishibama Beach. The water is gorgeous and an unbelievable shade of turquoise, but the currents are stronger, so there are lifeguards on duty, and alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
If you really want a beach all to yourself, you’ll find it just next to the village itself, if you follow the signs towards the Ama-Gusuku Observatory. While going uphill, watch for a tiny wooden sign pointing you down a sandy path to Hizushi beach. It leads you to a secluded spot with fantastic snorkelling and healthy reefs, and it’s all yours. You can spend hours snorkelling there, but be sure to put sun block on the back of your calves or you’ll suffer a ridiculous sunburn on your legs.
Aka is truly one of those rare places on earth where you can feel your brain switch gears, because really you don’t have anything to do but swim, and nap, and sit to look at the beauty of the world in front of you. You can just leave all your cares behind for a few days, and let your worries go. Life is simple on Aka island. And at night, as you sit on the rooftop, sipping a cold glass of awamori and watching the satellites make their way across the pitch black sky, you know you’ll never forget that feeling of just being there, and just being free, even if for a few short days.
Access: By ferry only https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/kerama/access/index.html
Currency: Yen only
Mon – Sun
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