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Zumi (Wonderful) Miyako Island! Let’s Make One-day Trip to Ogami Island with a Tour Guide
post : 2018.07.25 07:00
“Ogami Island” is a small island about 4km / 2.5mi away northward from Miyako Island, and the island is about 3km / 1.9mi around. Even though many remote islands are connected with Miyako Island by bridges, this island is accessible only by a boat. It takes about 15 minutes to Ogami Island from Shimajiri Port on Miyako Island, and the boat operates 5-round trip in a day.
There are many sacred spots throughout the island, and residents in Miyakojima City look up to the island as “the island where the nature of God lives.” There are many traditions and rules of the island, so it is better to take a tour with a local guide if you were going there for the first time.
This rock of Ryukyu limestone is located near the entrance of the island. Since it is surrounded by the block wall, it is obvious that this is a place for residents to pray for. I remembered when a famous artist Taro Okamoto (1911-1996) expressed such place as “dizziness that comes from nothing.” No constructions like shrines are built in those spots, and rocks are just laying down there. Most Utaki (sacred spot) are like that.
The population of Ogami Island is only about 30. Most residents are aging, and the island is quiet most of the time except those people who lives outside the island go home on a visit during the New Year and Obon season. Let’s make a tour with a tour guide and walk around the island.
Most residents are engaged in both farming and fishing, and charms against fire and water are decorated at the entrance of housing.
After passing an area, we can find a well on the hillside. It is an important water sauce on the island, and the sacred spot that resident to pray for.
A sloping road that leads to “Tunpara (observatory)” is located further the well. An annual festival called “Uyagan” takes place on the island. During the period of festival, residents are not allowed to come to Tunpara except those people who are in charge of the festival. Since most places on this island are sacred spots, and many utaki where residents are forbidden to enter are scattered.
Presently, the road to Tunpara is maintained by wood deck, but it might be a rough road with rocks and stones long time ago. The only thing that has not been changed might be these thick trees. This spot looks different than the spot with strong sunlight where we were at minutes ago.
The hill where Tunpara is located is 70 meters above sea level, and the panoramic view spreads on top of the hill. The blue ocean looks like the cloud that covers sky. Unlike the strong sunlight and vivid colors, this silence makes me scary a little. Since I live in a world with full of sound, Ogami Island is a very peaceful island. Also, I do not listen to any sound much, so I feel like my eyes get cleared and can see anything that I cannot see usually.
You can see Miyako Island and Ikema Island from Tunpara. It is believed that there was a messenger who reported the progress of festival which took place in Karimata area of Miyako Island. Probably Ogami Island was a special island for residents of Miyako Island.
After leaving Tunpara and walking around the island during the daytime, you can see the good old scenery of Okinawa that cannot be seen much on Mainland Okinawa.
Taros and beans are growing at small farms, and these are good enough for residents to eat.
Actually, there was a plan to build a road around Ogami Island. However, the construction work was aborted in the middle of it because it was "the message from God.” The residents of this island follow the truth which is different than human wisdom. The middle part of concrete on the above photo was cut off once it was built because the middle part is a road that the God take from the sea to the island.
After walking around the island, it is time to take a break at “Opuyu Shokudo,” the only restaurant on the island.
“Kaki Dako Bowl” is a specialty dish of Ogami Island. It is a simple stir-fried dish with smoked octopus and onion, and it cannot be eaten anywhere but here.
There was a space to sell everyday items in the corner of restaurant, and I found a photo book of Ogami Island in the shelf next to the space. This book was about families who live on the island, and a cameraman took photos of them in the year of 1972 and 1990. I happened to meet one of the ladies in the book at the restaurant. She was over 80 now, and currently lives by herself. She told me stories about her. She went to a spinning factory in Mainland Japan after the war, and she missed Ogami Island while she was living on Miyako Island to go to school. It was because she could not see the ocean from the window and felt like stuck in the house, and so on. She spoke to me in standard Japanese kindly and switched to a language of Ogami Island when she started talking to residents here. I was very impressed by that.
After the break, let’s take a cart and go to the other side of island. It is a surplus cart of a golf course, and it is useful to take elderly residents who lives on upslope.
While driving on a road by the coast, I saw many weird shaped rocks called “nocchi.” Some of them looked like mushrooms, and the others are like trees. Some rocks fell into the sea from the uplift surface long time ago, roots of them got eroded by waves, and formed the shapes. Also, I found some nocchi that might collapse in few years…
Aging, depopulation, and lack of female residents who involves in the festivals are the ongoing issue of this island. But residents keep up a tradition and live everyday lives on the island where the God lives. I stayed here only for few hours, but I was happy to learn about this island.
Name of the boat I took from Miyako Island to Ogami Island is “Sumanu Kariyusu,” which means “luck of the island.” It is not enough to call this island as a spiritual or sacred island. I felt like getting luck of the island by being there.
A tour of Ogami Island with a tour guide (about 90 minutes) 2,000 yen / person
*reservation required. Discount for a party of 3 and more.
Inquiry: Ogami Island Tourist Association
Business Hours: 9:00-18:00
* Price referred as of March 2018.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Naoko Tsuruta