NHK NEWSLINE from Tokyo

Anchors and Reporters' Notebook

June 9

A Cool Kerama Blue Trip

Jonathan Oh
Jonathan Oh
photo

Hello! This is Jonathan! As you might expect, a meteorologist who enjoys studying nature also likes being IN nature, and as summer is around the corner in Japan, that’s my cue to hit the beach. A beautiful beach is my favorite outdoor location, and if I’m on break, you might just find me at a beach in southwestern Japan away from the busyness of Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong - I really love Tokyo, and it’s home for me now, but my heart isn’t too far away from the islands of Okinawa. Its beautiful rich culture along with pristine sandy beaches makes this region the perfect place to get away from the world’s biggest metropolis by just getting on a plane for a couple of hours.

Okinawa is a large region made of many small islands, and each of the islands has something unique to offer. My most recent trip to the region was at the beginning of May. After a two-hour flight to Naha, I took a thirty-minute boat trip to a place called Tokashiki Island, a part of the Kerama Islands. This small island only has one traffic light. The locals say the signal was installed so that the children would grow up knowing what a traffic light is. It goes to show that this island is relatively remote. The Internet connection is pretty weak out here, but maybe that’s a good thing when you’re taking a vacation. If you have an International Driver's License, you can rent a motorbike or a car to get around. A bicycle wouldn’t be the best form of transportation because of the quick-changing elevation, but if you’re looking for a workout, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea.

As I was looking for the beautiful blue waters of the beaches on the island, I needed the weather to cooperate. However, around the month of May, the Okinawan islands are typically a bit cloudier and rainy, and so finding a good time to head to the beach was a bit tricky. The waters of Tokashiki is what makes this place attractive – the deep “Kerama blue” color comes from the coral that are around the island. There are a couple of beaches where you can swim – Tokashiku Beach to the north and Aharen Beach to the south – both facing toward the west. Snorkeling is extremely popular. Some of my friends that I met on the island were able to go swimming with the sea turtles and the fish. I got to see some fish myself even in the shallower areas of the beach.

In addition to getting some sun on the sandy beaches, I also spent some time with the locals during that week at various parties and gatherings, and their hospitality makes me want to go back and see them again. During one of those parties, the former mayor of the island came to the barbeque that we were enjoying, and he entertained us by playing a traditional Okinawan instrument called a sanshin (it gets its name from the three strings that the instrument uses). There was plenty of singing and dancing when he started cranking out the music. Even though I didn’t know any of the words, I couldn't help myself trying to sing along.

Each of the Okinawan islands has its own unique culture and flair, and Tokashiki is no different. While it might be off the beaten path from those typically heading to Naha or Nago, getting a chance to escape the daily grind for some peace, quiet, and friendly folks is worth the boat ride away from civilization. My cell phone got a bit waterlogged during that trip trying to grab some underwater video, but that gave me that much of an opportunity to enjoy my time away by keeping the phone off. Make sure to pack plenty of anticipation when you can get a chance to come visit this gem of a place in Japan because there is plenty to experience here! Hope you have a good day wherever you are!