Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Complete Guide to Ikema Island and Yabiji Reef

Miyakojima is one of the top destinations in Okinawa. But you might not be aware that there are a couple of smaller islands around Miyako Island, with three of them connected to Miyako-jima by a very long but majestic bridge! Ikema Island is one of the islands that can be reached from Miyako-jima without a ferry. On top of being the island closest to Japan’s largest coral reef system, the ocean in this part of Miyakojima City is the most enchanting, with various shades of blue and green blending together!

So if the above sounds attractive to you, below is a list of spots you can visit during your time on Ikema Island!

How to Get to Ikema Island by Public Transportation

From Miyako Island, take Yachiyo Bus’ (八千代バス) services and get off at Gyokyō-mae (漁協前).

Although in Japanese, HERE is the service’s timetable. The stops highlighted in light yellow are located in Miyako Island’s town center.

Ikema Bridge (池間大橋)

Ⓒ 宮古島観光協会

Ikema Bridge is one of the extremely long bridges in Miyakojima City that connect the city’s main island, Miyako-jima, to one of the city’s seven islands. With almost the entire bridge above the azure sea water, it is one of the best driving courses in Miyako-jima!

From Ikema Bridge, you can see the godly Ōgami Island (大神島) on the east and windmills at Cape Nishihennazaki (西平安名崎) on the west.

The 1,425-meter-long bridge connects Miyako Island to Ikema Island. If you view Ikema Bridge from afar, you will notice that the bridge isn’t completely flat. The bridge’s center is raised to create an arch shape for boats and ferries to pass through.

Tips:
☛ The sea color changes according to the tidal condition, giving you different shades of blue and/or green colors. These differences are very obvious during the spring tide.
☛ The scenery around Ikema Bridge is absolutely stunning, even on a rainy day!
☛ Bicycles are allowed on Ikema Bridge.

Where to Get a Great Photo of Ikema Bridge

There are a couple of places around Ikema Bridge that allow you to take some photos of the spectacular bridge:

Tip: You can only get backlight from Ikema Island before noon.

Kaimiru (海美来)

Located very close to Ikema Island’s entrance, Kaimiru isn’t just a restaurant serving light meals and desserts. You can adore the magnificent ocean and Ikema Bridge from the observation deck on its third floor!

While the light meals are generally all seafood or meat-based, what you can’t miss out on when you visit Kaimiru is the Beniimo Mochi (紅いももち). Made from locally harvested purple yam, the traditional deep-fried dessert is something you will remember years after because it is so delicious!

As for drinks, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice is one of the most popular drink menus.

On your way out, you might want to check out and grab a couple of souvenirs (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Kaimiru’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Kaimiru is open from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • The restaurant is around a 25-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港) or around a 15-minute walk from the bus stop, Gyokyō-mae (漁協前).

Ohama Beach (オハマビーチ)

After you have your fill at the third-floor observation deck at Kaimiru, how about visiting your first beach on Ikema Island?

The stairs next to Kaimiru lead to Ohama Beach underneath the restaurant. Although the beach is rather shallow, it is still a great spot to admire the spectacular Ikema Bridge from below!

Yabiji Reef (八重干瀬)

You might have heard of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. Well, Japan has something similar, but just smaller in scale.

Ⓒ 宮古島観光協会

The Japanese version of the Great Barrier Reef is the Yabiji Reef (also known as Yae-Kise), located north of Miyako and Ikema Island. This largest coral reef group in Japan spans about 25km by 6.5km and is composed of over 100 reefs. It is a national place of scenic beauty.

Yae-Kise is also known for being above water level several times a year, most visible around the 3rd of March in the lunar calendar when the tide ebbs the most.

Needless to say, a variety of tropical fish would probably call this designated national natural monument home. The contrast between the fish’s and the coral reef’s color is just fascinating, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year!

Tip: Coral spawning also occurs around the beginning of March in the lunar calendar. You might be able to see the pink coral eggs spreading in bands during that time of the year!

How to Get to Yabiji Reef

To get there, you will need a boat. As there are no regular ferry services, booking a tour is a must. From Ikema Island, the boat trip takes around 20 minutes. And if you come from Miyako Island, it is around 40 minutes.

Important: There is no Yabiji Reef tour in winter.

Tips:
☛ If you tend to get motion sickness, remember to take preventative measures. Also, try to look far away when you are on the boat. The symptoms should be alleviated this way.
☛ The typhoon season peaks in July and August. While the water may be warmer, tours will be canceled due to bad weather.

Options to Explore Yabiji Reef

Once the boat arrives at Yabiji Reef, it is time to jump into the water and explore!

Don’t worry if it is your first time snorkeling. The coral reef acts as a breakwater, so the sea is relatively calm around Yabiji Reef.

Yabiji Reef is best explored when diving down as deep as 12 meters. If you are up for it, book one of the tours where you can get an experienced instructor to accompany you to ensure you get the best experience and safety. Not only will you encounter many more tropical fishes and be enchanted by the beauty underwater, but the chances of meeting a sea turtle will also largely increase!

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

You can book the tour in advance HERE. The tour usually starts at 9 am or 10 am and lasts for at least half a day. Some Miyako-Island-based tours might even offer pick-up service from your accommodation.

Funaks Beach (フナクスビーチ)

On the north of Ikema Island, there is a compact beach that includes all the elements of Miyakojima‘s beautiful beaches within a small area. The white sandy beach shore, the crystal clear azure color seawater, coral reefs, and tropical fishes can all be found at Funaks Beach. You can even hide behind the big rocks to avoid sunlight!

The beach that is also known as Ikema Block (池間ブロック) doesn’t have large waves. So even on a weekday, there might be a couple of people swimming or snorkeling at Funaks Beach. It usually doesn’t get too crowded, which is good! (^_-)-☆.

Another good thing about Funaks Beach is the number of shells you can find on the shore. So if you love collecting shells, you will have a lot of fun at Funaks Beach, searching for colorful shells, large and small!

The only con of Funaks Beach is its lack of facilities. Whilst there is a toilet and a simple rental shop in the car park, we still recommend that you come fully prepared because they might not be open, especially the toilet.

Please note that the water covers almost the entire shore during high tide.

Important: Walk carefully while on the rocky terrain. You won’t want to fall off the cliff, albeit it isn’t high.

Tips:
☛ You can only get backlight in the morning at Funaks Beach.
☛ Arrive by 10 am for a high chance to enjoy the beach yourself.
☛ Water shoes are recommended to protect your feet from the potentially sharp rocky road.

The Whale Rock (クジラ岩) and the Praying Black Coral (祈りの黒珊瑚) at Funaks Beach

Looking east from Funaks Beach is the rocky terrain that resembles a whale when the tide ebbs. So when you get there, you might see people taking pictures with it as a backdrop.

Also, check out the black coral from where you can see the Whale Rock. Doesn’t the whole coral group look like a scene of a woman praying with her hands joined?

Please note that you need to walk along the rocky cliff shore to see the Whale Rock and the Praying Black Coral. If you are afraid of heights or traveling with young children, consider giving it a pass.

How to Get to Funaks Beachフ(ナクスビーチ)

  • Funaks Beach is around a 30-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
  • The beach is a 30-minute walk from the Gyokyō-mae (漁協前) bus stop.

Kaginmi Beach (カギンミビーチ)

Around 350 meters from Funaks Beach’s car park, there is another beach that offers a bit of an adventurous ambience. Because one needs to rely on a 4-meter rope to safely get down to Kaginmi Beach, commonly known as Ikema Rope (池間ロープ). It is a secret gem for snorkeling if you come fully prepared.

Your effort in climbing down the steep slope will be rewarded with an enchanting ocean view. Although Kaginmi Beach doesn’t have a wide sandy shore, the rocky terrain makes the beach somewhat enclosed, which makes it feel like a private beach!

So why is there a rope? Apparently, Kaginmi Beach was used as a venue to pass down knowledge about the sea to Ikema Island’s children. The rope was set up by the teachers in the late 20th century.

Ikemajima lighthouse (池間島灯台)

Like many islands in Japan, the island’s lighthouse is its symbol. Although the lighthouse doesn’t really offer anything special, the 23-meter tall white lighthouse can still form a gorgeous photo shot due to its surrounding vegetation when taken from afar.

Whether you drive along the east coast or the west coast of Ikema Island, you will still eventually reach Ikema Lighthouse. But unless you have a great passion for lighthouses, it might not be the spot you will want to visit.

Ikizu Beach (イキヅービーチ)

Traveling west from Ikemajima Lighthouse, Ikizu Beach is a quiet beach you will encounter. The usually secluded beach has a white sandy beach and emerald green clear seawater. As the waves here can be rough, it isn’t suitable for swimming. But if you love to relax on the shore, Ikizu Beach will be the place to go. Plus, the sunset there is stunning!

Ikizu Beach is actually a divided beach by a limestone formation. The south/west side of Ikizu Beach receives a lot of attention from the media and tourists due to the Heart Rock.

The north/east part of Ikizu Beach is a lot quieter.

Important: There are no amenities there, including toilets.

Heart Rock (ハート岩)

When the tide starts to ebb, what gradually appears at the bottom of the cliff that was covered by water is a heart-shaped hallow. During the low tide, the sandy shore continues beyond the photogenic spot allowing you to take all sorts of photos with this romantic rock!

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Because the heart shape faces the ocean, the hallow is automatically colored with the seawater’s gorgeous turquoise with occasional darker blue from the coral reef.

Tips:
☛ Confirm the low tide timing by checking Japan Meteorological Agency’s website HERE. You can translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
☛ Choose a day with low tide in the morning for a photo of the Heart Rock with beautiful sea color.
☛ While the backlight in the afternoon usually won’t give you the best photo, this isn’t the case if the low tide takes place around sunset. The ocean, in this case, is dyed orange, which gives the Heart Rock a brighter color!

How to Get to Heart Rock

  • Funaks Beach is around a 30-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
  • The beach is around a 20-minute walk from the Gyokyō-mae (漁協前) bus stop.

Important: From mid-2022, Heart Rock is only accessible from the car park if you buy a drink from the cafe. If the cafe is closed, it means you won’t be able to see it. While it is not impossible to get to Heart Rock from Ikizu Beach, you must climb through the rocky cliff or go around it by getting into the water.

Ikema Wetland (池間湿原)

Ikema Wetland is the largest wetland in Okinawa, located in the center of Ikema Island. The 38-hectare wetland has been selected as one of Japan’s 500 Important Wetlands and is also locally known as Inupu (イーヌプー) or Unimui (ユニムイ).

The wetland is the natural inhabitant of crabs and wild birds, making it an irresistible spot for birdwatchers. The observatory on the side of the wetland is the best and only place to observe the wildlife at Ikema Wetland. However, the downside is that the road isn’t well maintained.

Apparently, Ikema Wetland was a waterway that split the island into two. It was where the islanders caught shrimps and fish. However, as the sand accumulated between the two islands over the years, the islands eventually linked. With that being said, the wetland wasn’t formed naturally. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the two coves were completely sealed. The remaining seawater left in between was desalinated, and the area became a wetland.

Tip: Land crab’s (オカガニ) breeding season at Ikema Wetland is from June to October. You might see the crab’s egg hatching on the coastline during that time of the year.

How to Get to Ikema Wetland

  • Funaks Beach is around a 35-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
  • The beach is around a 30-minute walk from the Gyokyō-mae (漁協前) bus stop.
  • While it is possible to park close to the Ikema Wetland’s observatory, the road to the observatory is relatively narrow. So it is probably best to park your car at Funaks Beach’s car park.

Discover Other Awesome Attractions in Miyakojima City

View-from-Hennazaki-Lighthouse-Miyakojima-Okinawa-Japan

Obviously, Ikema-jima shouldn’t be the only island to visit when you head to Miyakojima. So if you are unsure where else is worth your time, our Top 12 Attractions in Miyakojima City article can provide you with some ideas!

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