Cycling JapanBy Takashi Niwa
Blue Sky Meets Turquoise Sea
The road stretches through sugarcane fields into the horizon of sparkling emerald water. Under the big blue sky, there are no mountains or large forests to hinder your view. Touring Miyakojima and its neighboring islands, you feel truly liberated.
When it comes to cycling in Japan, the sight of the turquoise blue Okinawan sea should not be missed. The bright colors come from white coral sand on the bottom of the sea that reflects sunlight beaming through clear water, so the entire surface of the sea shines like a backlit screen
If you want enjoy this natural beauty to the fullest, island hop away from the main island, where the shorelines in and around Naha and other areas are more developed, and head to one of the remote islands. Here, light traffic on beachside roads makes for ideal bike touring conditions.
Among these islands, only Ishigakijima and Miyakojima have shorelines longer than 100 kilometers. Of the two, the latter is mostly flat except for its south shore, while Ishigakijima has much more rugged terrain. Miyakojima is only a bridge crossing away from Ikemajima and Kurimajima, and Irabujima is an easy ferry ride. Overall, Miyakojima makes for a perfect tropical cycling escape over a long weekend.
Once you have landed on the coral soil of Miyakojima and checked in for the night, pick up only what you need for the ride and pedal into the sunshine. Do not forget to make a right turn when you hit the coastal road, since Japanese cycling rules keep cyclists on the left side of the road. By taking this clockwise route (on islands and peninsulas, and vice versa for lakes and inland waters), you’ll be closer to the water.
Starting from Hirara, Miyakojima’s largest town, head north for Nishi-hennazaki Cape and then on to Ikemajima over the scenic Ikema Ohashi bridge. On your return, ride south to Higashi-hennazaki Cape, where you can see a narrow strip of land pointing into the sea. Have a quick visit to the island of Kurimajima and then back to Hirara. The full loop is 103 km., which makes it a good two-day trip. An excursion by ferry to Irabujima will add to the island-hopping fun.
Total distance: 131 kilometers (including the 28-km. loop of Irabujima)
Best in: July to May / 7～5月
Ikema Ohashi (bridge): Feels like you and your bike are gliding on the water.