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Yuirail promises a fun ride & choice destinations

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2005-05-16

An Okinawa adventure can be many things to different people, but there’s one that begins as transportation and winds up leading to plenty of Naha area excitement.

Yuirail is the pop name for the Okinawa Urban Monorail, an 18-kilometer line stretching from Naha International Airport to near Shuri Castle on the Naha northside. Now approaching its second birthday—it opened August 10th 2003—Yuirail is gaining stature among its core ridership, but also with tourists. The monorail winds its way through the downtown area, bringing a host of tourism hotspots within easy reach, while saving inner city workers a lot of frustration by eliminating the daily automobile commute.

The monorail’s two-car configurations can carry 165 passengers across the 15 stations network, traveling at an average 28kph speed. Officials say the monorail can hit a snappy 68kph on a couple of long stretches. The Yuirail operates 6am to 11:30pm, running every 15 minutes during slow periods, and every 6½ minutes during peak hours. For the time conscious traveler, the end-to-end run is done in a snappy 27 minutes, a savings of anywhere from 15~30 minutes over using a car to commute the same distances.

Having said that, try Yuirail for the fun of it. The ride is smooth, and using the system itself is easy. The touch panel ticket vending machine has verbage and symbols every rider can understand. There are even a series of handicap features on Yuirail, including braile for the visually impaired, and audio guidance equipment for those hearing impaired riders.

Wheelchair bound travelers find the Okinawa monorail to be a breeze. Elevators whisk riders from street level to the stations and trains, where there are wide wheelchair access ticket gates, and there is special equipment which makes rolling the wheelchair onto the cars easy.

Yuirail was a long time in the making, with planning dating back to the reversion period in 1972, when Okinawa switched from U.S. to Japanese control. It became the island’s first post-war rail transit system, replacing a light rail system called Kebin, which operated from 1914 until 1945, when the Battle of Okinawa destroyed it.

Getting There

The southern gateway to Yuirail is at the Naha International Airport. The trains run north, winding their way through 13 stations before hitting Shuri, the northern terminus. For locals wanting an excursion, the fun can begin anywhere along the line. By virtue of parking required before the Yuirail rides begin, we’d recommend the Omoromachi Station near Galleria and Naha Main Place on the city’s northside. Travel south on Highway 330 or Highway 58, into Ameku and Naha.

Look for Omoromachi Station signs and the monorail symbol. Parking garages are located in each of the nearby shopping centers. From there, rides can go north to Shuri, or south to the Naha International Airport.

Of course, the ride can begin at Naha International Airport, where there is plenty of parking, although not free.

There are two elements of Yuirail adventure. First, ride the monorail and enjoy the scenic panorama of the city, unencumbered by traffic. The train moves quickly enough to enjoy, yet slow enough to get some good photographs. Second, take advantage of the various fares and get off along the way, exploring the sights of Naha and its suburbs. Next week, Fantastic Okinawa highlights the sights to see at each of the Yuirail stops.

The Cost

A simple one way ride on Yuirail will cost an adult ¥200~290. The first four kilometers are ¥200, with ¥30 increases each four kilometers. For the sightseer, a 1-Day Free Pass is a better deal, costing ¥800 for multiple rides. Child fares are inexpensive as well. Yuirail also offers a 2-Day Free Pass for ¥1,200, and a 3-Day Free Pass for ¥1,500.

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