Ie Jima, not Iwo Jima

Hello everybody!

I spent a week off work and did a lot of thinking. I was told by someone who is very dear to me that I needed to get into nature and avoid people. That of course is the right answer for me even when I am in a happy state of mind. I decided that indeed it was a good idea to go exploring and embrace the preciousness of life.

So I have been spending more time toward the northern part of the island and I have looked across Nago Bay several times on clear days and noticed this island. For some reason I keep thinking this island, Ie Jima (Jima simply means island) is Iwo Jima. It looks like a volcanic upthrust sitting out there on the horizon.

I woke up yesterday and decided it was time to at least see the ferry  schedule and possibly visit an island. Off to  Motobu…for the princely sum of 1370 yen (about $13 )  I secured a roundtrip ticket to Ie Jima. I was on my way.

soap bagsAt the ferry station in Motobu…this is one way to keep people from stealing the soap I guess.

It was about 10:30 and I had only had a cup of coffee as I traveled up there. I was hungry so I visited the little concession stand on the ferry and got my three dollar breakfast. Note the little hotdog flower up in the corner and the mandatory toothpick. The egg salad here is delicious and the bread is so fluffy and light it is like manna from heaven.

Asagohan (breakfast)… green tea and delicious egg salad salad.

A thirty minute ferry ride delivered us to the port in Ie, and to this water that was so incredibly blue, teal and whatever…it’s stunningly gorgeous. I had read in the brochures on the ride over that they have bicycles available for rent and that it is mostly a flat island and it is easy to ride with a bicycle. Well, it is mostly flat, except when you intend to climb to the crest of the only mountain on the island. I keep thinking I’m in condition and then I find out the sad truth…

blue water
Crazy blue water at Ie Jima.

So I had my little map and decided to head up to the mountain…I still thought I was on Iwo Jima at this point. I found out that the little map and brochure lied about the flatness of the terrain. It was probably written by the people who rent the one-speed bikes with one brake that does not function.

My bike for the day…of course I took the red one!

The picture below is taken after about 10 minutes riding uphill…okay I did walk it at points, and I was beginning to feel the weakness in my legs!

me and my bikeI just needed to take a break from that bike! It is sitting behind me like some hellish mode of transportation from a Stephen King book…

I got to the site, parked my bicycle with about four other intrepid souls who rented from the same place as me, and proceeded up the five thousand step staircase to get to the bottom of the mountain.

I got there and I’m thinking. geez, I don’t see any thing that marks this as a spot. I saw a shrine and paid my respects (and gave money..the Gods have to eat too) and started up the trail.

me at the entrance to gusukuGetting ready to climb the mountain!

It was at this point I was remembering that someone had said Iwo Jima is way off by itself and there is nothing there. I looked it up on Google and of course, it was an entirely different island, not close at all to where I was.  That’s okay because I had a beautiful day, and uncrowded trail ahead of me and plenty of time.

from the top
A view from the top of Mount Gusuku
ie lighthouse
That big column over there is the lighthouse.

The trail felt like it was straight up and there were little chains along both sides to keep  you on the side of the mountain while the wind tried to pull you off. It was exhilirating, particularly after my legs had told me earlier they were not in the mood for my silliness.

I got to the top and you can see the view I was rewarded with. I also looked down at that moment and started to laugh. I had packed my Vibram Five Fingers in my camera bag for riding the bike and climbing the trail. It was only then that I realized I had my sandals on the whole time. I have become so used to wearing them it didn’t even occur to me to put something else on.

my feet
I realized I’ve been living in Okinawa a while when I rode my bike and climbed to the top of Mount Gusuku in my flipflops!

I did meet a few little insectile friends along the way…a very large banana spider (I know a spider is not an insect, please don’t give me a hard time), a grasshopper and my very large friend the Japanese beetle who landed and decided to stay awhile.

japanese beetle and ocha
This is my first Japanese beetle sighting since coming to Japan. He was headed straight for the green tea. It is not only beautiful, but it also has good taste.
A fellow traveler on the trail.

So I climbed back down after doing my 22 push ups for 22 days on top of the mountain. I decided at that point to just ride around on my bike and see if I felt like spending the night or heading back.

The little streets with traditional red tiled roofs opened before me and beckoned me down little side places with a profusion of hibiscus spilling onto the road. I encountered one or two farm trucks and many sunny smiles from the locals. It was fun exploring…I needed this.

I looked down the road and saw a little slice of the sea tempting me.

A road that leads to a beach…I love Iejima!

I went down and parked. It was beautiful, of course it was…I am running out of words for beautiful…no words or pictures can encapsulate the experience. Off to my right was a big rock with several of the local inhabitants…some were more shy than others.

Feeling a little crabby? Iejima is the place for you!

To my left were these iconic Okinawan rocks and that incredible water that I braved to go get a few pieces of sea glass…we all have our addictions!


water and rocks

sea glass and shells
Seaglass and shells

I visited a few more beaches on the way back to the port but decided to call it a day and take the final ferry back at 4:30 pm. I was considering staying at a little inn, but thought that another time would be better.

I returned my bike and decided I would be bringing my own mountain bike the next time I come, there are caves and beaches I have yet to explore.

The return trip was uneventful and quiet…I think many of us were worn out from our bicycle excursions. Below is a photo from the ferry before we took off..

Bridge to Soseko Island from the ferry.

It was a good day, one that reminded me to be grateful for every second I have on this earth and to use that time wisely. Take trips, explore the world, grab life with both hands, love people around me with all my heart and be thankful.

I’ll see you all next week and thank you for all the kind words and thoughts, they helped see me through a dark time.