Biking Around Ie Island

Saturday, my friend L had a great idea of heading to Ie Island to bike and see the sights. Ie Island (or Iejima) is north west of where I live, about 62km (38.5mi), and so we headed to Motobu to catch the ferry to Ie.

Okinawa is a small island at only 1199 km² (463 mi²). Ie Island is a fraction of that with an area of only 22.77km² (8.7 mi²) and a population of approximately 4,780 people.

We had the option to take our vehicle on the ferry but opted instead to park and then rent bikes since Ie is only 20 km (12 mi) in circumference.

Ie Island is also called “Peanut Island,” for its general shape and peanut crop (although we saw no peanuts but that explains the mascot’s pants). Of course, I didn’t learn this key fact until today (Sunday) and so we spent much time yesterday trying to figure out why the mascot was wearing a peanut shell as pants.

But I think it’s better known as “Flower Island.” The map has the tagline “A Romantic Island of Flowers in the Evening.” I’m not sure why the evening because we saw plenty of hibiscus but hey, it’s their tourism.

After we rented our bikes, we headed up to Mt. Gusuku, the symbol of the island. Along the way, we first stopped to see Hokon-no-to. During WWII, some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of Okinawa happened on Ie and Hokon-no-to honors the 3500 war dead, including 1500 local residents. On April 21 each year, the island takes part in the Prayer for Peace festival.

We continued up the hill to get to Mt. Gusuku, which you can see from almost every part of the island.

At this point, I have to apologize to all those I criticized who were riding a rental bike at the beach. Y’all, rental bikes are awful! The handlebars were weird and no matter what I did, I could not make the bike go straight. I rode like a drunk monkey. The back breaks also didn’t really work. They made a horrible screeching sound. It was horrible but also funny. We laughed a lot about it.

So we made it to the south entrance of Mt. Gusuku. The south entrance involved climbing a good number of steps just to get to the bottom of the mount.

Once there, I ended up not climbing to the top mainly because of steps were ridiculously steep. But L did and I snapped her at the top (zoomed in quite a bit in both shots!).

We both had tennis shoes on but the few Japanese people we saw all had on flip-flops or crocs on. I have no idea how they climbed the stairs.

Despite that I didn’t climb all the way to the top, I still got a great panoramic shot.

Next we headed to the Hibiscus Gardens but unfortunately, the gardens were closed. In fact, we later realized that every business except the gas station, Family Marts, ferry terminal, and one gift shop (that was in the ferry terminal) was closed. Sadly, covid has hit Okinawa hard. The good thing was we didn’t have to deal with any traffic except a tractor.

But as an aside, on our journey around Ie, we saw two (not one but two) of these GINORMOUS spiders. Seriously, it was as. big as my hand. And its web was at least 3 feet wide. (Probably wider because I am terrible at distances.)

So we continued on to Waji (or Wajee).

Waji is a clear water spring that wells up from the bottom of a 60-meter tall precipice. The water bubbles up, and so was named Waji, which means the foaming place. Once upon a time, locals would take water out from between the cracks. After WWII, the U.S. Forces helped install pipes to draw water from the spring. Iesoda, the island’s carbonated beverage, is made using this water.

And then L told me that someone she knew recommended taking a photo through one of the polarized lens of your sunglasses.

After Waji, we headed back into the main part of the town to try to find food. This is when we discovered that noth restaurants was opened except Family Mart. So a Family Mart lunch it was! Honestly, Family Mart never disappoints. L even got to try the Ie specialty, the matayoshi kamaboko (the fish cake, which did not look appealing and according to L tasted about the same as it looked).

We then tried to visit the Santa Maria rum distillery. Sadly, it was closed too, as well as the brown sugar factory (Okinawa is known for its brown sugar).

But we continued on and headed to the Ie Beach, known for its beautiful sand and the gorgeous turquoise waters. (My photos do not do the colors justice.)

On our way back to the ferry, we rode by this interesting turtle roof. No idea why. There are many things in Japan that make us go “hm” but they’re also very fun.

Back at the ferry terminal, we finally found a gift shop and bought some Ie Island speciality: Santa Maria gold and crystal rum, sweet potato potato chips, kekkun (lejima wheat chips), and these amazing looking cookies made with the brown sugar.

And then we headed back on the ferry. The last one leaves for Motubu at 4:30, so we had to be on it. I was a bit surprised I could still walk after nearly 5 hours of bike riding.

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