Ie Island is often overlooked sightseeing spot
By Natalie Nakamatsu
Lilies, who does not love lilies? And not only one, but one million of them and although mostly white, also in yellow, pink and orange!
This week we are introducing the island that holds an annual lily festival; Ie Island (Iejima). The Lily Festival will kick off April 19th, and runs through May 6th at the Ie Village Lily Field Park. Live music and cultural events are scheduled during the festival on the weekends and through the Golden Week holidays.
Ie Island is located approximately 9 km northwest from Okinawa main island. It’s about a 30-minute ferry ride from the Motobu Port (map: http://goo.gl/maps/61dLx), four times a day at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. During the Golden Week holidays the number of trips the ferry makes is doubled while during the peak
summer season from July 21st through August 31st one round trip is added to the schedule. The round-trip tickets cost ¥1,370 for adults and ¥690 for children.
The island’s most notable feature is the Gusuku mountain, which is known on the island as “Iejima Tacchu.” It is a hill that rises 172.2 meters above the sea level and stands slightly to the east from the center point of the island. The island has a total area of 22.73 square kilometers.
On the northwestern part of the island there is an auxiliary airfield used by the U.S. military. At one time, half of the island was a military base, but eventually most of it was returned and the base now covers about 35% of the land.
Of course the island has much more to offer than its annual Lily Festival, and there are plenty of things to enjoy. There is snorkeling to enjoy its beautiful coral reefs and cycling or try a new experience of sanshin, harvest sugarcane, milk a cow, make tofu, pick peanuts and much more.
Many remains dating back to the old stone age to Ryukyu Kingdom times have been discovered on the island, especially on a sandy hill on its south coast.
The island also has some very unique island-made products such as the Iejima beef jerky, peanut-based products such as sweets and ice cream, scallions, hibiscus soup and the Ie Island made rum made of locally grown sugarcane. You might even find a new product when visiting the island yourself.
Ie Rum Santa Maria is a new brand, which has only been on the market since July 2011. It’s made using only sugarcane grown on Ie Island. By keeping the high-concentration sugarcane juice frozen, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice can be brewed into rum year around. The rum has an aroma that only the fresh sugarcane can give. It’s a rare product with only 12,000 bottles produced annually.
When Okinawa was under the U.S. administration, the Ernie Pyle International Theater was built on Kokusai Street in Naha City. The origin of the name “Kokusai Street” came from this theatre which was located near what is now Tembus Naha.
Ie Island Tourism Association recommends visitors to always carry yen when visiting the island. Money exchange is not available and dollars are not accepted in any island facility. There are ATM machines located in the post office, Family Mart and JA.
For more information about the island you can visit the Iejima Sightseeing App at: http://ienavi.org/index_en.php
Shimamura Park is inside the ruins of an old Okinawan house that is famous for being the scene of one of Okinawa’s three most famous tragic love stories, “Iejima Handu Guwa”. Admission is ¥400 for adults, ¥300 for elementary and junior high school students, and ¥ 200 for children. The park is located five minutes by car from the port, or a 20-minute walk. Their phone number is (098) 049 -2422. Map: http://goo.gl/maps/VPFM9
Ernie Pyle Monument
Ernie Pyle was a famous war correspondent for the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII. Every year in April a memorial ceremony is held at the spot where Ernie Pyle was killed, with the current U.S. military personnel attending the ceremony. The monument is a 3-minute drive or a 10-minute walk from the port.
The beautiful Ie Beach is located on the east side of the island. Its white sands continue one kilometer long and it’s a very popular swimming and snorkeling spot. There are shower facilities costing \200 and beach parasol rentals for ¥1,000.
In the Ie Hibiscus Garden there are about 1,000 varieties of hibiscus in full bloom. A few of them can only be seen on Ie Island. Enjoy a stroll in the garden to view its endless lines of hibiscus and listen to birds chirping. There are also flowers for sale. Admission to the garden is free. Phone number: (098) 049 -5850.
On the north side of the island there is a picturesque scene with a precipitous cliff. Near the shore there is a spot where people in the old days came to fetch spring water flowing out of the rock that was the lifeline of the islanders.
According to a legend, inside the Nyatiya cave is a “Power Stone” where women who were not able to conceive a child would go to pray. During WWII, it was used as a bomb shelter, in which many islanders hid, which is why it’s now also called the “Thousand Cave”. It is now a sacred land where camping is not permitted.
Ie Country Club has the longest golf short course on Okinawa. Here one can enjoy playing a relaxing and quiet round under blue sky near the ocean shore. Night play is also available.
Commonly known as the famous Iejima Tacchu, the Gusuku Mountain is the only mountain on the island. The mountain can be seen from any part f island and it is believed to protect the island and is also its’ symbol.
Gohesu Cave is located to the west of Ie Airport. The 2-meter-wide entrance to the cave actually leads into two caves that are on top of each other. The upper cave is 19 meters long, while the lower cave stretches 35 meters. An investigation in 1975 found fossils of deer, human bones and shells in the cave. The deer fossils were said to be from some 2 ~ 10 million years ago while the human bones were dated back to 800 ~ 2,200 years ago.