Okinawa Tourism Information:Zumi(Wonderful)MiyakoIsland!BreatheDeeplyandEnjoytheNatureTourandHerbLunchonIrabuIsland!

Zumi (Wonderful) Miyako Island! Breathe Deeply and Enjoy the Nature Tour and Herb Lunch on Irabu Island!

post : 2018.08.25 07:00

The longest charge-free bridge (about 3.5km) in Japan, “Irabu Ohashi Bridge” was built in 2015 to connect between Miyako Island and Irabu Island. It is good to rent a car and drive throughout the island freely, but it is good to take a tour with a local tour guide and discover “many good things about the island.” So, would you like to join a tour to visit herb vera farm and enjoy lunch with herb on Irabu Island? 

If you recognize with this spot by looking at the first photo, you must be Miiyako expert. This is “Yamatobu Big Rock,” and it is located on the right side of Irabu Big Bridge. Most people might look at it from a roadside, but there are stairs through the side of rock. When you go upstairs, you can see the mysterious and amazing view between rocks. A gentleman on the above photo is Toshimichi Chikamizu. He is the owner of herb vera farm, and he also plans and manages a tour on the island. He picks spots for participants after taking their requests, and sometimes he changes the destination after meeting participants in person. This time, he arranged a tour for participants who are engaged in plant industry.

Irabu Ohashi Bridge also can be seen from a space between Yamatobu Big Rock and a rock next to it. This space is called “Valley of the wind,” and it is one of the sacred spaces of the island. 

“I would like to take my guests to places that are not on any guidebooks, so they can witness the beautiful part of the earth,” said Chikazumi who moved to Irabu Island from Tokyo 20 years ago. He took us to some places and explained the function and history of each place. He learned the information from a local elderly woman who is in charge of festivals of the island.

Next, we visited Subtropical Forest Park near Yamatobu Big Rock. There was not anybody but us, and the scenery looked like a painting on the ceiling. Branches of trees stretch upward, leaves rustling in the wind, and roots and fibers came out between rocks. I felt like I got lost in the forest when I was surrounded with lots of greens. 

While we were walking on a path, we saw a fluffy plant landing on a ground. At the same time, 5 women got very excited when they saw when leaves of palm trees blew in a wind and moved a little.

This plant is called Giant swordfern, and its leaves are hanging down like a male phoenix’s tail. Its shoot is known as “Miyako Zenmai” on Miyako Island, and it is an edible seasonal ingredient there. “You can get lots of energy from plants and holy rocks,” Chikazumi said. When I closed my eyes and touched plants, I felt like receiving waves and messages from plants secretly. Since the beliefs of nature and ancestor worships are rooted on the Ryukyu Islands, the Gods and spirits exist here and there to look at humans and teach them important things naturally. 

Let’s go to Chikazumi’s farm. He has been working on it for 20 years, and seasonal chemical-free herbs welcomed us. 

We got herbs with scissors and baskets, and we could smell them just by being close to them. This herb, “Tulsi,” is also called as holy basil, and it is known as a sacred herb in western countries. 

And this is roselle! Most people who loves herbs might be familiar with dried roselle, but it can be harvested only during a short time of the winter. Roselle is also cultivated in Southern Okinawa, but Chikazumi grows chemical-free roselle at his farm, and it seems very fine.

This farm with bright red color seems impressive. 

After getting herbs as much as we want, it is time to enjoy lunch while looking at the farm.

Appetizers include boiled Okinawan spinach with yogurt flavor, dried tomato and basil ḥummuṣ, and pumpkin agrodolce. Isn’t this lemongrass-made chopstick stand look wonderful? 

Homemade breads were served with freshly made herb pastes, and you can have all 9 kinds of pastes as much as you want. They are too delicious, and it is hard to resist eating breads with them.

This pink-colored soup is vichyssoise with Okinawan spinach, and it is accented with roselle salt.

This is herb salad with homemade tuna and cucumber, and also sliced red roselle is on top of it. The clear and wobbly object in the back of salad is aloe vera. 

The main dish is composed with winged bean in kebab style, Vegetables of Miyako Island and herb fritter, pisto, and safflower glutinous millet rice. Italian and other ethnic food comes one after another, so I did not get tired of eating it. 

Meyer lemon mousse with roselle confiture and roselle tea were served for the dessert on this day. I got a paper which the name of dishes, ingredients, and seasonings were written on, so I can learn the recipe of each dish. 

Herbs that are harvested at the farm are processed as herb paste, herb tea, or confiture. Also, these are available at the farm. 

I visited here before Christmas, so I brought back branches of roselle to my house to decorate them as a Christmas tree lol After enjoy gazing at them for a while, I tried making salted roselle and pickled roselle. They came out good, so I am thinking of making more next year. 

After the lunch, Chikazumi took us to his favorite spot. It was a grotto by the coast, and the God exists here.

Not only the magnificent and great things about the nature, but also, we can learn about the lifestyle of people and history of the island. That is what Chikamizu’s tour.

Irabu Island Herb Vera Farm
Address: 1657 Irabu Nagahama, Miyakojima City
Tel: 0980-78-5519
“Tour to Irabu Island and Herb Lunch” *Minimum of 2 people
4 hours tour (10:30-14:30) 4,000 yen
6 hours tour (10:30-16:30) 6,000 yen 

*Price referred as of March 2018. 

Okinawa CLIP photo writer Naoko Tsuruta