Take a trip you'll want to boast about to Kume Island, paradise on earth
About 30 minutes by plane from Naha Airport, Kume Island is easily accessible. Its beauty has been praised since ancient times, when it was called "Kumi no Shima" which means "the most beautiful of the Ryukyu Islands." Come and visit an island full of charm, where you can enjoy activities and the local cuisine against a backdrop of spectacular views, and give yourself an experience you'll want to brag about to your friends.
Walk on water and ride the winds at Hate-no-Hama
Hate-no-Hama floats off the east coast of Kume Island. It is the general name for three sandy beaches, which themselves are named - in order from the one closest to Kume Island: "Mae-no-Hama (Front Beach)", "Naka-no-Hama (Middle Beach)," and "Oku-no-Hama (Outer Beach)." These three form a long, thin chain that stretches for a total length of around 7km, making it the longest sand-island in East Asia. Its excessive beauty has made it well-known due to its use in footage for movies and commercials, and it is one of the must-see spots for Kume Island sightseeing.
After around 20 minutes of my boat weaving through the shallows, a white sandy beach stretching as far as the eye could see appeared. This calm sea, highly transparent and sheltered by coral reefs, is a great place to enjoy the currently trending stand-up paddle-boarding, aka "SUP." SUP is a marine sport originating in Hawaii that's charm lies in it being easy for anyone to try. Riding atop a board larger than a surfboard, you paddle like you would be in a canoe to move across the surface of the sea.
After a lecture from the instructor on the beach, it is time to head out to sea. It's my first time doing SUP, so I start on my knees in a half-sitting position. I found the first few minutes a little scary, but I gradually become accustomed to it, and finally I stood up! The board was surprisingly stable, and I was able to stand easily. Furthermore, once I was able to move forward in a straight line, the wind at my back gently pushed me along. I was even able to relax enough to enjoy the sight of the colorful tropical fish swimming by underneath me.
Local soul food that combines the island's gastronomical delights
After enjoying SUP, I went to an Okinawa Soba restaurant recommended by a friend who is a repeat visitor to Kume Island. According to what I was told, the popular eatery is open for only three hours from 12:00 to 15:00, and as soon as their noodle broth runs out, they close. The restaurant was just off the main street near the Kume Island Tourism Association "Ajimaa-Kan," and in a slightly recessed location.
After passing beyond the gate and its welcoming Shiisaa guardian gods, I was greeted by the sight of a traditional house with a spreading red-tile roof. There was a traditional Okinawan alcove, Buddhist altar, and even a kitchen, which gave a sense of the way of life of the local people. There was floor seating inside the old house, as well as two tables outside in a lovely garden. In order to make the most of the opportunity, I sat inside to relish the Okinawan atmosphere.
The stars of the show in terms of Okinawa Soba here are the "Sokei Moyashi (bean sprouts)," which were generously piled on top. They are cultivated using the spring water from Kume Island's Aka Village, and are a valuable vegetable that is extremely hard to find outside the island. It is characterized by a refreshing crunchy texture, and is delicious even when eaten raw.
They are full of minerals, have a great balance of nutrition, and are definitely a source of energy. In that quaint Ryukyu-style traditional house, a bowl full of the blessings of the island soothed both mind and body.
A search for new scenic encounters
After recharging with the delicious food, it was time to come face to face with two cute horses at the meeting place for horse-riding. We were introduced to two male horses, Kukuru - energetic and a little mischievous, and Barai - large in body but somewhat timid. I decided to have a ride on Barai. First of all, I introduced myself and made small talk while stroking his neck. Then I learned how to ride and some simple signals to give the horse, and when I finally was sitting astride him, my heart started pounding a little, as it was higher than I thought! But the staff were very helpful and reassuring. So off we went to Eef Beach.
Have fun with your horse on a beautiful white sandy beach
Chosen as one of the "100 Beaches of Japan," Eef Beach is an expanse of soft white sand and beautiful ocean. The sea breeze stroked the surface of the water, and we walked the horses along the sparkling foreshore. As I rode matching the regular breathing and rhythm of the horse, I felt comfortable, and before I knew it my nervousness had gone.
More than anything, I was very glad that the horse obeyed my signals when turning and stopping! I enjoyed talking to him and felt a connection. Once I got used to riding, it was time to try going faster. Racing across the beach astride the back of a horse is exhilarating.
It is just you, a great view and your horse in a world of your own. I imagine I'm not the only one who wanted to brag to my friends about the videos and photos I took in such a dream-like location I'd only ever seen in movies! Looking at the Kume-Island ocean and feeling a sense of reluctance at this experience I will never forget coming to an end, I thought to myself how I would like to come back to see Barai again next year.
Body and soul are soothed by the abundant nature and interacting with horses
Horse riding is an activity you can experience in Okinawa on Ie Island, Ishigaki Island, Taketomi Town, Yonaguni Island, and Kume Island. Kumejima Horse Ranch has 9 options to choose from, and the "Seahorse Fun" option allows you to frolic in the ocean with your horse (without the saddle). It's a popular experience where you can grab your horse's tail and have them pull you along, or float in the water up to your ears and hear the sound of the waves and your horse's underwater footsteps.
Horses are highly social and clever animals. The horses at Kumejima Horse Ranch are a native breed that are of small stature and gentle character. That's why you can steer them using the reins on your own, and even beginners or small children have nothing to worry about. For those who want to race or be more active, there are energetic and lively horses. But for first-timers, there are calmer and more docile horses. Part of the fun is finding one that suits you.
I was told by the staff: "In horse riding, it is important for you to communicate your intentions to the horse clearly." Horses are intelligent enough to understand what people are trying to say. Apparently, this means that children are sometimes actually better than adults, because they communicate their feelings honestly. When you are an adult, concern for or about others sometimes makes it hard to say what you think, but when it comes to riding horses, the trick to skillful interaction with the animals is probably forgetting all that, returning to your childhood and being honest about what you want.
Blue Field Kumejima
The only private boat tour on Kume Island; a comfortable option even for those trying SUP for the first time. Take a leisurely stroll on the surface of the sea to go and visit the sea turtles and fish. Please make a request if you think of something you want to do on Kume Island, or if you think of something fun that isn't among the options available. We will do our best to make it possible.
Address: 266 Magari, Kumejima-cho, Shimajiri-gun, Okinawa Prefecture
Address: 509 , Nakadomari, Kumejima-cho, Shimajiri-gun, Okinawa Prefecture
Open hours: 12:00 - 15:00 (L.O. 14:30)
Fixed holidays: Sundays
Kumejima Uma Bokujo
Interact with small, gentle native horses while fully enjoying the island's nature, including the sea, mountains and scenic spots. Enjoy not just riding, but also relaxing with your horse and creating a heartfelt bond. People worried about riding can just spend time with the horses. The staff will stay with you, so anyone can relax and enjoy the experience.
Address: 457-135, Uezu, Kumejima-cho, Shimajirigun, Okinawa Prefecture.(Office)
Open Hours:10:00 - 17:00
* Prices are accurate as of the date of the report (November 2018). Please contact each organization for details of their programs.