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Escape to Minna Jima

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-07-14

It is easy for the beauty of Okinawa to escape our daily lives as most of us live in the congested areas of Chatan, Okinawa City and Ginowan. Consider yourself lucky if you are one of the few to live in the (somewhat) untouched northern part of the island. In contrast to the faded concrete buildings and endless traffic on Highway 58, a paradise awaits the eager traveler who dares to venture north. The plant life and flowers explode with the soothing colors of green, red, purple and the beaches of the surrounding islands offer a glimpse of what a tropical paradise should be.

Mina Jima, a small crescent shaped island situated off the coast of Motubu, is one such place that is easy to get to. Traveling up the coast, the driver has two choices. Follow the scenic Hwy 449 from Hwy 58 and you will encounter both amazing views of the East China Sea as well as annoying construction. The better route is Hwy 84 as it cuts through the center of the penninsula and leads you back to 449 and the port of Motubu.At the port, you must catch a ferry to get to the island. The spacious, air-conditioned ferry runs several times a day and is a quick 20 minute ride to paradise. As the ride takes you across the aqua blue waters of the sea, you will be able to view the tall rock formation that shoots up from the surface of Ie Island.

Once the ferry arrives, the entire island is yours, so to speak, because even on peak days, the crowd is minimal. To the right, a small guarded beach and man-made swimming area sit. Additionally, a food stand and public restrooms are located in the same area. To the left, hundreds of feet of sandy beach invite you to relax and soak in the stunning atmosphere of the isle. The center of the island is host to a tiny, but lush forest of palms, ferns and other tall trees and can be explored freely.

For the avid snorkler, the crystal clear waters of Mina prove to be a great source of a variety of fish species as well as urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers and snails. Coral heads line the coastal waters and striking blue starfish can be seen sitting on the sandy bottom every few feet. As you travel further out, a small reef is host to incredible colors of plant and animal life and on most days, the water is quite tame.

Exploring the island is also a treat. Local fishermen usually occupy the opposite of the island, spending an entire day enjoying the heat while trying to catch fish. During low tide, small pools of water form at the shore, catching fish and other sea life. Anyone who loves the environment will enjoy the chance to look for other island animals, including a rare bat species indigenous to Mina.

Visitors are welcome to bring food and drink but should be advised that there are few trashcans on the island. In fact, the most visible and disturbing sign of tourism to the island is the abundance of trash that lines the upper ridge of the beach. Bring extra trash bags so that you can pick up trash as you exit the island while setting a good example for other travelers and the local population.

Jet ski rental and guided SCUBA are available but expensive. The ferry leaves the port at Motobu daily at 10 AM and 1:30 PM. The last ferry back to the port leaves Mina at 4:00 PM. Tickets are purchased at the small port office for 1490 Yen, roundtrip, and free parking is available. From Kadena AB take Hwy 58 North and turn left on Hwy 84. Follow 84 to 449, which leads directly to Motobu and look for a small dock area with boats and parked cars.

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