Escape from Reality on Okinawa's Aka Island
On Aka Jima (Aka Island), all roads lead to the ocean. That is, if you can call them roads. Barely wide enough to accommodate one car, the three tiny lanes in the village of Aka all run parallel to the sea, and from every corner you can catch glimpses of that absolutely perfect ocean, with a color so distinct they had to give it a name — 'Kerama Blue'.
Aka Jima, with a population of just over 300 humans and a few dozen wild Kerama Deer who walk through town grazing and enjoying the cool breeze on the beach at sunset, is picture perfect. Yet very few tourists ever come here, other than in the high season when divers come every summer.
When it comes to a list of 'things to do' on Aka Jima, you can pretty much count them on one hand – beach, beach, beach, drink awamori, and sleep. Sounds good, right? Imagine there are places in Japan where there are no Family Marts, no supermarkets, almost no souvenirs to buy, and no noise. The handful of guest houses and dive shops who accommodate guests serve up three fantastic meals a day, because there is almost nowhere else to go to eat, so wherever you choose to stay, best get comfortable.
After arriving at Aka port, guests are picked up and taken on the short 60-second ride to the guest houses that line Meinohama Beach, which is a great spot for snorkelling and swimming. Around the corner is Ama Beach, where you have a 90% chance of seeing snacking sea turtles, but this beach is quite rocky, and not a comfortable spot to relax. A short shuttle-bus ride away is the stunning Nishibaama Beach, which has lifeguards and life vests for rent.
But, if you want a beach all to yourself, at the far western end of Aka village is Hizushi Beach, a hidden cove that you discover after a few minutes walk up a hill and then down through a shrouded path. Best to have your fins and masks, because the snorkelling here is absolutely fabulous, especially in the middle of the bay when you reach a deep gorge. The corals here are untouched and pristine, and it really makes you appreciate Aka Jima's obscurity. There are not so many places on our planet that are still undamaged by mass tourism.
In fact, come to think of it... do me a favor and just forget all that I've just written. Forget I even mentioned Aka Jima. Go to some other island that has Family Marts and souvenir shops and ATMs and beaches full of people. Leave me and the deer to enjoy this little piece of paradise!