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Annual reef festival attracts thousands on Miyako

Date Posted: 2002-04-17

Every year, on Mar. 3 of the lunar calendar, a vast expanse of a reef called Yaebishi surfaces off the coast of Miyako Island as the low tide reaches its lowest ebb during the whole year. The occasion attracts thousands of tourists and locals to the reef to collect shellfish or just plain explode the area that for the rest of the year is completely submerged.

The first day of the festival was Saturday, some 470 people descended on the reef from ferries and other boats. During the three days that the low tides expose the reef, some 2,000 people are expected to explode the reef.

Before, people used the occasion entirely to harvest shellfish from the reef, but the ever-increasing number of people participating raised concerns of environmental damage among local activists. To counter these concerns, Hirara City tourism authorities decided this year to provide 15 guides at the site. The guides explain visitors the reef’s ecosystem, and identify various creatures inhabiting the reef.

Cloudy skies and strong northerly winds prevailed on Saturday preventing many people from actually landing on the reef, but that did not stop Hiroshi Suzuki from Tokyo from taking plenty of photographs and enjoying the experience. “I have never seen a live reef before and I find it quite impressive. Also, I did not know that a reef has a peculiar odor to it. I will definitely remember this for a long time to come,” he said.

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