Guided by Uchinanchu (Okinawan) rider Yoshiki Nagahama
Taking a bike on ferries to travel around the island?
Cycling along National Route 58 in Okinawa.

“Ferry × Bicycle”. There are surely some of you who are excited by this combination, right?
Hello again. I’m Yoshiki Nagahama, an Okinawan writer born and raised in Okinawa. This is my second column. I’m introducing recommended cycling routes in Okinawa.

As I mentioned at the beginning, “Ferry”. It can be quite a hassle to pack your bike into a carrying bag for airplanes or trains, but if you’re traveling by ferry, you can take your bike on board seamlessly and enjoy a smooth travel experience.

So, “Where to go by boat from Okinawa?” Are you heading to islands within the prefecture from the main island? Or are you leisurely hopping around the southwestern islands via the Kagoshima route…

Table of Contents

1. From the main island to the main island!
2.Riding through Yanbaru!
3.Enjoy “Chinbin” at a popular road station!?
4.Okinawa specialties: Beniimo (purple sweet potato) and hidden gem: beef
5.Last spurt as the sun sets

1.From the main island to the main island!

The answer is “From Okinawa Main Island to Okinawa Main Island”. It’s a day trip where you depart from Naha Port in the southern part of the main island and head north to Honto Port in the northern part, which takes about 2 hours, occasionally swaying with the waves, and then return by riding approximately 80 kilometers.

This is operated by the First Marine Transportation’s “Jinbei Marine” *. The morning service starts at 8:30 a.m. There were a few other people besides me who brought their bicycles on board. It’s a popular cycling route.

Jinbei Marine docked at Naha Port Ferry Terminal.

The final destination, Motobu Toguchi Port, is a town where the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located. The passenger cabins of the boat, featuring motifs of whale sharks, look like this.

Shortly after departing Naha Port, there was an announcement on the ferry saying, “Whales can be seen on the right side of the direction of travel. Please enjoy.” The sea was so vast that I couldn’t spot them myself, but in the waters near Okinawa, it’s possible to see whales during the winter months, with one whale watching operator claiming a “98% encounter rate.”

And we have arrived. Motobu Port.

Motobu Town / Motobu Port

I’m all set with my drone this time as well. Down to the left, you can see the Jinbei Marine we were on just a moment ago.

2. Riding through Yanbaru!

Our immediate goal is the center of Nago City, approximately 15 kilometers from Motobu Port. I was expecting cycling in the northern part of Okinawa Island to be a bit challenging due to its hilly terrain, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. National Route 449 connecting both cities runs along the coast the entire way, offering a rather flat route with stunning scenery.

What a beautiful view!
What a beautiful view!!!

In January, Okinawa has an average low temperature of 14 degrees Celsius, and it’s generally cloudy, but there are sunny days like this (I thought it might be cold, so I wore a hoodie, but I ended up sending it home after stopping by the post office).

Nago City, 21st Century Forest Beach

It’s Nago Bay. Perhaps because it’s a bay, the waves are gentle, which is calming.

Right nearby is the “Nago Fishing Port Direct Sales Store,” where we’ll have our first lunch today.

In the end, it’s all about the experience of eating fish at the fishing port, isn’t it? It’s delicious just for that.

Thank you for the meal. Now, let’s embark on a journey to find dessert. We’ll head south on Route 58. By the way, this trip follows Route 58 straight through. The final destination, Naha Port, is only about 100m off Route 58, so remember to think of this journey as “The Route 58 Adventure.”

3. Enjoy “Chinbin” at a popular road station!?

If you cycle for about 10 minutes from the fishing port, you’ll come across “Michi-no-Eki Kyoda.” This roadside station is a familiar stop for many Okinawa residents when traveling to the northern part of the island, and it’s a regular favorite in the national popularity rankings of roadside stations.

Kyoda Michi-no-Eki underwent a renewal in 2021, significantly expanding its parking space. It’s a popular destination for tourists, offering a variety of Okinawan items for purchase.

I’ll prepare by stocking up on Shikuwasa juice and mango gummies for the long journey ahead. And, “chinbin”…!? Well, to put it simply, it’s a traditional Okinawan treat that’s like a black sugar chewy crepe. It’s delightfully simple and delicious, so be sure to try it when you visit. You can find it in supermarkets and sometimes even in convenience stores.

Also, notice the “Lequio” label on the mineral water. This name dates back to the 1500s when Portuguese introduced the Ryukyu Kingdom as “Lequio.” So, drink it down every 500 years.

4. Okinawa specialties: Beniimo (purple sweet potato) and hidden gem: beef

The journey continues.

Onna-village. We’ve circled around from the tip of the Motobu Peninsula, visible in the distance behind the sea, and arrived around the Nago Bay.

As we continue heading south…

Not Shuri Castle, which unfortunately burned down, but the Onna store of the well-known “Okashi Goten,” famous for its beniimo (purple sweet potato) tarts. While we couldn’t visit on a Sunday like today, on weekdays, you can even tour the production line for the beniimo tarts.

The ultimate powerhouse combo of fresh purple sweet potato tart and purple sweet potato roll.

Let’s make sure to replenish our calories and continue heading south.

The tropical atmosphere is complete with trees reminiscent of Donkey Kong’s world. While palm trees aren’t native to Okinawa Island, they are occasionally planted for landscape enhancement purposes in this tourist-oriented prefecture, offering scenes like this.

Finally leaving behind the approximately 30 kilometers of Onna Village, we arrive at Yomitan Village. Despite being a village, it boasts a population of over 40,000, known as the “Village with the Highest Population in Japan.”

In Okinawa, bullfighting is popular, mainly in the central part of the main island. It’s a type of bull-versus-bull competition, and sometimes the bulls are given names associated with companies. The sign here displays the “Furugen Motors” bull, which even someone like me, who isn’t familiar with bullfighting, has heard of before; it’s a former champion bull.

And then there’s Kadena Town. About 80% of the town’s area is part of the US Kadena Air Base. You may often hear about Kadena Air Base and Futenma Air Base, but in reality, there are more than 30 US military facilities of various sizes.

We’ll continue riding along Route 58, surrounded by fences on both sides. Let’s enjoy the gentle ups and downs.

5. Last spurt as the sun sets

It’s already this late.

At the Blue Seal Chatan Store in Chatan Town, it’s time for our final munching session of the day.

Blue Seal is often associated with ice cream, but some stores also offer burgers and other food options.

It’s called the Blue Seal Burger.

After having a burger and some fries, you automatically crave ice cream, but I’ll resist the temptation this time.

And it’s been about 8 hours, no, maybe 9 hours since we started pedaling. We’ve safely arrived at Naha Port. Let’s first celebrate the safe journey.

The National Route 58 we took this time is the main artery of the western coast of Okinawa Island, and it can be said to be the “road of the people” indeed. Riding along the western coast where urban areas and tourist attractions are concentrated, it’s a recommended route for those who want to get to know Okinawa better. You can also gradually feel the change in characteristics in each area, so please explore the many faces of Okinawa. Well then, see you again, or as we say in Okinawan dialect, “mata yaasai”!

🚲Today’s Ride Itinerary *Based on data from accompanying riders

https://www.strava.com/activities/10555810058?share_sig=490C0EDF1706605043&utm_medium=social&utm_source=ios_share


🚢Please check here for more information about “Jinbei Marine”.
https://daiichi-marine.com/
Fare: 1000 yen one way per adult (Tomari Port ⇔ Motobu Toguchi Port)
Departure from Naha: First departure at 08:30
Departure from Motobu: Last departure at 16:00
*As of February 5, 2024

Text & Photo_Yoshiki Nagahama

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Yoshiki Nagahama
Freelance journalist, television director, and scriptwriter. After graduating from the Media Studies Program at the University of the Ryukyus, embarked on a bicycle journey from Kagoshima to Tokyo sponsored by various companies in Okinawa. Later circumnavigated the world, covering 30 countries. In 2018, held a photo exhibition showcasing shots from North Korea. In 2023, undertook the ‘Taiwan Bike Trip until Losing 10kg’ (surprisingly, accompanied by the wife). Authored ‘Okinawan Around the World! A Journey Connecting Bonds!’ (Toyo Kikaku Kobo, 2010). Founder of the XY STUDIO LLC. Born in 1986 in Urasoe City, Okinawa Prefecture.

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