Ishikawa-dake offers surprising challenge to trekkers
In Okinawa, there are no high mountains. This might make you feel bored on weekends if you’re a mountain lover, but it doesn’t mean we have no mountains worth climbing. Actually, there are a few mountains that you can enjoy climbing, and one of the few is Ishikawa-dake.
Ishiwaka-dake is located in Uruma City. You’ll face a small hill ahead of you just after passing Ishikawa Tunnel when driving north on route 329 bypass, and that’s the Ishikawa-dake.
It’s height is only 204 meters that is not so high. Yet, once you take the mountain trail, you feel as if you were walking through a Yanbaru forest in the northern part of Okinawa. Geographically, Ishikawa-dake is considered to be the southern edge of the Yanbaru forest. Thus, vegetation on the hill is almost the same as that of Yanbaru. “Itajii” broadleaf trees dominate the forest and lots of sub-tropical flora and fauna like Sakura-Tsutsuji Azalea grow along the trail.
Ishikawa-dake has three trail routes for climbers. The shortest is about a one-hour course for a round trip, and the longest takes four hours to complete. All trails start from Ishikawa Seisyounen no Ie, a public youth camping facility located at the foot of the hill.
For first time climbers, I recommend the shortest trail. Although It’s the shortest it’s not as easy as a Sunday picnic. Steep trails are impossible to go up without holding to side-ropes, and you need to find your steps up trails with bare roots sticking out of the ground.
A forty-minute climb will take you to the summit of Ishikawa-dake. There, you’ll understand why this mountain is so popular among locals. As it’s located on the narrowest point of the Okinawa Island, you can see the ocean on both sides from the small observation deck at the summit. To the west, you’ll face a beautiful coastline of Onna Village. To the east, you can see Ikei Island near the horizon of Kin Bay. The panoramic view contrasted by the blue sky is stunningly beautiful.
If you’re an advanced hiker, the longest course marked “C” is your choice. You go along a more cliffy route, and a third of the trail goes along a river. You might want to take short breaks so often along the way to quench your thirst while on the trail.
All three courses are probably difficult to try if your kid is still kindergarten age. In this case, there is an extra trail called “adventure course,” which is located right next to the camping site. Your children enjoy the 15-minute quick adventure with you.
There is no specific season to enjoy mountain trekking on Okinawa. But considering the scorching Okinawan summer with high humidity, I can say the early summer is a good season to climb.
To go Ishikawadake from Foster or KAB area, take route 329 bypass towards Camp Hansen. Passing Coco-Ichi Curry in Ishikawa, turn left at the first traffic light with Family Mart at the corner. Go through the residential area and after passing the bridge above the Expressway, take right after the entrance of the Higashiyama golf course. The entrance for the Ishikawa Seisyounen no Ie is on your right. All trekkers are required to log in at the Seisyounen no Ie for safety. Maps and pictures of the trails are at http://unai-sc.net