The Kerama Islands are known as one of the world’s best diving spots and for the beautiful ocean that spawned the name “Kerama blue.” The Keramas consist of 30 islands. Tokashiki Island is one of the populated islands with 700 residents. The island has untouched nature, beautiful beaches and goodhearted people.
It took about 70 minutes by ferry from Tomari Port in Naha to get to Tokashiki Island. Kanako Kuniyoshi, the proprietress of Reef INN Kanako, welcomed me with smile in the parking lot at the port.
“Too bad it’s not sunny today,” Kuniyoshi said. “But how about enjoying the natural shower? Did you hear the cicadas? It will be sunny soon, so don’t be too disappointed about the rain.” She chatted brightly.
“There are lots of electric poles,” she continued. “But, there are no street lights so you can see the Milky Way clearly at night on this island.”
During ten-minute drive to the inn, Kanako went over the charms of the island like a tour guide. Yes, I did forget about the bad weather thanks to her.
“You can hear cicadas till the end of November,” Kanako said. “And, in December, whales come from Alaska to raise their babies.” She told me that whale watching tours are available during that season and then the beaches open for swimming in April.
You’ve probably heard of “island time”. That means things move slowly on islands. But it seems that nature moves faster than island time on this island. I was so entranced by the natural beauty of the island that I was surprised at how quickly we arrived at the inn.
The inn features a great location (just a one-minute-walk to the beach), dive shop, WATER KIDS provides various marine activities located is in the same lot. The food at the inn, with its fresh fish and traditional pork dishes are just like mom’s cooking.
Main dish for dinner varies from fish like gurukun (Pterocaesio digramma), manbika (mahi mahi), simmered pork belly or goya champuru (stir-fried bitter melon). Side dishes such as stir-fried kelp, stir-fried noodle, island tofu, fresh island vegetables and more are on offer. The red rice is also available when it’s in season.
*For lunch, Tokashiki ramen with seaweed and fishcake or taco rice are available. (750 yen each)
Kanako opened the inn in 1972 as a first inn on the island – the same year that America returned Okinawa to Japan. The inn was renovated in 1990 and now all rooms have bathrooms. Kanako, who is originally from the mainland, now runs the inn with her son Haruhiro . It is a safe place to stay even when traveling alone.
“Please be yourself and enjoy your stay” is her message to all.
When she told her father about her marriage and move to the island, he didn’t like it -- although he loved Okinawa. He thought she wouldn’t make it because she didn’t seem serious about living on an isolated island back then. “I am happy that I decided to come,” Kanako said. “I love the energy of the island and people here. The energy is totally different from the one at resort areas.”
Haruhiro works for a group that protects coral reefs on the island. When he was in college, he participated in an program for removing giant coral-destroying starfish from the reef. That was the first time realized that he lived on a precious, fragile island in terms of natural beauty.
“Since high school, I’ve been helping out at the dive shop and so the reef has really been a part of my life that I took for granted,” said Haruhiro. He realizes now how important it is to protect coral so he observes, volunteers in transplanting and takes part in various other activities for the preservation of coral. Coral Day (March 5th) has been set aside for a yearly event in the village dedicated to transplanting coral.
Kanako is always looking after her son. “When I came to the island, I guess I tried to show off, but now I’ve stopped doing that and just use my confidence to tell everybody about the beautiful ocean that I am proud of,” said Kanako. As she says, many of tourists seem having great fun spending their island time on the beach.
Reef INN Kuniyoshi
Address: 178 Aharen, Tokashiki Village, Shimajiri-gun, Okinawa
Check in: 15:00
Check out: 10:00
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Noriya Fukuda