Guided by Uchinanchu (Okinawan) rider Yoshiki Nagahama
Enjoyable even in winter! Okinawa Seaside Cycling

Nice to meet you, everyone. Do you like cycling? Well, I’m sure those who love cycling have found their way to Global Ride’s column. So, do you happen to like ‘Okinawa, where despite being year-end, the temperature is 25 degrees, and the sea is incredibly beautiful’?

This time, as a Uchinanchu writer born and raised in Okinawa, I, Nagahama, will guide you through an easygoing seaside cycling experience enjoyable all year round! How about reliving a fresh journey even for the locals?

Table of Contents

Today’s course is the eastern coast of central Okinawa Island.
The distinctive historic streetscape of Koza in Okinawa City.
From Okinawa City to Uruma City, I’ll also have some Mozuku Tacos.
Feel the eternity of time at the World Heritage Site.
Here we are. The sea.
The Mid-Sea Road immersed in blue.
Off to Hamahiga Island
Explore Okinawa on your own bicycle for a unique sightseeing experience.

Today’s course is the eastern coast of central Okinawa Island.

Starting from the Koza district in Okinawa City, the central city of Okinawa Island, this leisurely course stretches about 24 kilometers heading east. Enjoy the scenery at a relaxed pace as you pass through the ‘Mid-Sea Road’ towards the remote island of Hamahiga Island. Isn’t the name ‘Mid-Sea Road’ wonderful?

The distinctive historic streetscape of Koza in Okinawa City.

The starting point is Koza in Okinawa City. The name ‘Gate Street’ comes from its nature as a town that grew around Gate 2 of the Kadena Air Base. During weekend nights, the entire street transforms into a lively area with booming bass, resembling something like a nightclub.

There are more English signs.
Live houses and the ‘Gentleman’s Club’ too. Okinawa City is a music town. It’s particularly vibrant within Okinawa Prefecture, embracing various genres such as rock, hip-hop, Okinawan folk songs, and Eisa, irrespective of the genre.
There are also cool bike shops where you can get anything you need if necessary.

Let’s fuel up before we really start pedaling. How about some tempura? In Okinawa, tempura has a thick batter and is more like a snack. I’ll have the classic fish tempura.

Uema Tempura Shop’s Fish Tempura

From Okinawa City to Uruma City, I’ll also have some Mozuku Tacos.

I’ll continue riding in urban areas for a while.

For those of you who think you can see the sea from anywhere in Okinawa, think again! You won’t see it unless you get close to it! That’s because Okinawa’s main island has much more rugged terrain than you might expect, and not many people use bicycles for daily commuting. However, there seems to be a growing interest in cycling as an activity. Every autumn, the ‘Tour de Okinawa’ is held, attracting participants even from overseas, making it a popular event.

Heading east from Okinawa City to Uruma City. It’s the third most populous city in Okinawa Prefecture, formed from a major merger in the Heisei era. Here in ‘Urumarche,’ which primarily deals in local products from Uruma City, let’s continue our food adventure with part two!

Mozuku Tacos. There are many taco shops, especially in the central part of Okinawa Main Island.
I infused Okinawan vibes with mango soda.

Feel the eternity of time at the World Heritage Site.

Until just under 150 years ago, Okinawa was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. Before the unification of the Ryukyu Islands in the 1400s, powerful leaders engaged in battles for control. Among the various castles scattered across Okinawa was the Katsuren Castle ruins.

In the year 2000, the ‘Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu’ including Katsuren Castle ruins and Shuri Castle ruins were registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Even if just in feeling, trying to slip back in time. Even if just in feeling, trying to slip back in fine. Reflecting not only on the distance travels on the bicycle but also thinking of the old times could be an interesting approach.

In this ride course, mainly featuring downhill sections, this path leading up to here has perhaps the only steep slope, making it a crucial point in terms of the cycling experience.

There was a delightful announcement that said, ‘Uruma City Welcomes Cyclists!’
Of course, for hydration, there’s Sanpin Tea. Sanpin Tea is probably the easiest tea to find in Okinawa. It’s available almost everywhere—vending machines, convenience stores, and local shops. It’s rare not to find it.

Here we are. The sea.

And little by little, it’s coming into view. The sea.

The bridge you see ahead is the Mid-Sea Road we’ll be crossing soon. Despite its name, ‘Mid-Sea Road,’ it’s actually a bridge spanning approximately 5 kilometers. Crossing this bridge allows access to four islands including Henza-jima and Miyaza-jima. It’s a classic local driving route.

Bringing a drone along on a cycling trip can add a lot of fun!

The Mid-Sea Road immersed in blue.

After all, it’s enjoyable. No matter how I look at it, it’s enjoyable. Pedaling on my favorite bike, all I see on both sides is the sea, sea, sea. And beyond my gaze, there’s that red bridge standing out against the blue sky. Even as a local, I find it enjoyable, so tourists must find it even more delightful.

Kijimuna (Okinawan folk monster = Majimun) is also advocating for traffic safety while holding a sanshin (Okinawan traditional musical instrument). It’s the most important thing.
The transparency is not unusual today either.

Midway through the Mid-Sea Road, there’s a place called ‘Umi no Eki Ayahashi-kan’ (‘Ayahashi Hall by the Sea’). You’ll find a shop selling Okinawan ice cream, including the renowned Blue Seal. It’s snack time at 3 o’clock, isn’t it?

The ice cream flavor that reigns supreme is the ‘Okinawa Ta-imo Cheesecake.’ Please, let this flavor persist as long as I live.

Off to Hamahiga Island

Crossing the Mid-Sea Road isn’t the end. Surprisingly, we’ll cross another bridge. It’s the Hamahiga Ohashi, the bridge that connects Henza Island to Hamahiga Island.

Hamahiga Ohashi. On the left, you can see Henza Island.

The sun is gradually setting, and the scenery, once dominated by blues, is slowly blending in shades of orange.

Please take a look from the first-person perspective as well.
Hama Higa Island, with its semi-agricultural and semi-fishing lifestyle, is renowned for its mozuku seaweed and salt.

Explore Okinawa on your own bicycle for a unique sightseeing experience.

How did you find the first column set in Okinawa? Among the charms of cycling, there’s the ability to ‘enjoy the moment at a leisurely pace.’ Getting around itself becomes a leisurely activity. Even for me, living in Okinawa, cycling in this area for the first time offered a wonderful experience, where I could immerse in history, nature, and cuisine all at once. There are several bike rental shops in Okinawa, so when you visit, consider embarking on a cycling adventure. Amidst the tourist attractions in Okinawa, you can create your own unique experience

Text & Photo_Yoshiki Nagahama

Profile

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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