Part 6 of Japan 2019. If you need to catch up, Part 5 is here.
Apologies for the hiatus! It has been a busy few months, between trying to buy a house in Plymouth, moving to a new city and starting a new job. Now it’s time to get back to the non-day job.
Packed up and ready to go. We were on our way to the Tomari port to board the Queen Zamami fast ferry to our next destination, Aka Island. This was the ‘paradise’ portion of the honeymoon, but I was feeling slightly apprehensive about the whole thing.
Aka is tiny. Around 1.5 square miles, home to 330 people. Was there going to be enough there to keep us occupied? What was the beach going to be like? I had reservations after the last isolated island, Don Khon, in the Four Thousand Islands in Laos. As much as I enjoyed it, it was far from an island paradise. More of a muddy river delta barely touched by tourism, but devoid of most activities. A place to get away from civilisation. Aka Island is much more developed, and accessible.
I booked the ferry online to save time at the port, but when we arrived there was another form to fill out (Japan loves paperwork) before we could pick up the tickets. Upon handing over the tickets, the office worker pointed out the last boarding time, which was in a few minutes, and essentially said “run”. So run we did, and thankfully the departure times were more relaxed than Tokyo-precision. The journey went smoothly, and we were presented with a welcome video explaining more about the Kerama National Park, known also as “Kerama Blue” for the many shades of blue in the surrounding sea.
The first stop was the bigger island, Zamami. After a short stop and the deposition of most of the passengers, we headed on to Aka. We were immediately greeted with the sight of a mammoth concrete bridge spanning the water between Aka and Geruma Island (which is even smaller than Aka). Incredibly out of place, but an impressive vista.
Scorching sun, and beautiful blue sea. Something you could get used to, and without too much humidity. Google Maps was our guide throughout most of Japan, and brought us straight to where we thought the guesthouse should be. Housei was marked on the map, but all we could see was a diving trip centre. We walked a little further, then doubled back to ask the worker at the diving place. We were immediately greeted and brought in, having stumbled across our accommodation. The host was very friendly, and let us check-in much earlier than usual as the room was ready.
It was time to head out to the beach. Nishibama beach is the only lifeguarded swimming area on the island, with the important addition of jellyfish nets protecting prospective bathers. Turns out there are a lot of things that will injure or kill you in the Keramas as explained by the information booklet in our room.
I was expecting a little town-like area of shops and cafes near the beachfront as is typical with resort towns. Not quite. There’s just a shack, a shower block, and a snazzy new beachfront shelter construction. The shack was called Asign, and sold food, shaved ice, cold drinks, and acted as a snorkel and beach equipment hire shop. And even when the shack is closed you can still pick up a chilled drink in the most remote vending machine I’ve ever seen. Even in the middle of nowhere, if it’s Japan, you can still find a vending machine. Sarah had a hot dog, and I had taco rice, a legacy of the American occupation of Okinawa. What is it, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like – spiced minced beef poured over rice and served with salad.
Stunning. Quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. Paradise. Just a few adjectives that come to mind when I think back to Nishibama. There were several signs and notices saying not to step on the coral, and avoid damaging the wildlife. My first impressions of the swimming area were reserved. It seemed small, and there couldn’t possibly be anything of interest in water that shallow. As soon as we started swimming, I was proven wrong. After a few metres of sand, we were faced with sheets of coral and numerous fish. I couldn’t believe the variety. Huge eels and tiny neon fish. Shoals of tiny silver flecks and weird and wonderful moving corals. I brought my waterproof action camera and recorded video of the sealife, and once satisfied that we had seen most of the creatures, we sat out on the sand enjoying the sun.
A vending machine in the middle of nowhere is one thing, but how about high speed WiFi? Yes, Nishibama had an excellent internet connection in a bizarre twist. Japan has really improved internet access in the last four years.
Continued in Part 7