Scarecrow Festival in Iheya Island enters final week
A unique festival on Iheya Island, a Scarecrow Festival reminiscent of the old days when the stick figures protected crops, is welcoming visitors through the end of May.
The festival, which began April 28th, is free and takes place on Iheya Island. Scarecrows have continued protecting the fields of the island and residents offer thanks for their intervention with the birds. Iheya residents are holding a signboard exhibition simultaneously. This exhibition features the photographs of about 170 island residents, and their animals are cut of plywood in life-
size. The exhibition works have white paint applied on them after completion, setting a stage much like life on the prairie.
Visiting Iheya Island takes about 80 minutes one way, and costs ¥2,380 by ferry from Unten Port in Nakijin Village.
Iheya has no hotels, a couple of inns (minshuku) and only a few restaurants, which do not keep regular hours. This small island is a great destination for a long weekend and is a quiet place to camp, hike, fish or scuba dive. Travelers should be aware not to plan a trip during rough seas or when there is a typhoon nearby because the ferry that services this island is small and will cancel its voyage at the first
sight of rough weather, leaving visitors stranded.
Those wanting to bring an automobile should know there is limited room aboard the ferry. If you are only planning a short stay, renting a mini car is the best option. The rental company is right across the street from the port and offers rentals of micro vans for only ¥4,000 per day. The rental company also lends out barbecue and camping equipment.
As far as attractions go, they are all of the natural kind. One park has a 500-year-old Ryukyu pine tree as its centerpiece. Another interesting attraction is a fresh water spring welling up from a large rock in the middle of the tidal zone.
A favorite camp site is a pine grove on the southern end of the island. The grove has plenty of room and has bathrooms with showers for a price of ¥100. During the summer months some visitors will opt for the hose outside the bathrooms and wash out in the open – avoiding the charge. The campsite is located on a narrow part of the island with access to several beaches.
One beach is on the east side of the island and is very rocky. Another beach on the west side is very sandy and much more pleasant. There is also a beach nearby on the south side; however, the sea is in between Iheya and a smaller island creating a channel where the current is very strong – use caution. There are no life guards monitoring these shores and surrounding waters so exercise caution and common sense.