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Just One Minute from the Kerama Blue Seas, Reef Inn Kuniyoshi (Tokashiki Island) Offers Warm Conversation & Hospitality
post : 2018.12.31 07:00
The Kerama Islands are known as one of the best diving areas in the world. The beautiful blue seas is referred to as Kerama Blue, and there are 30 large and small islands including uninhabited islands in this area. Tokashiki Island is one of these islands with a population of 700 people. This island has untouched nature, breathtaking seas, and kind, heart-warming people.
Only 70 minutes by ferry from Tomari Port in Naha, Tokashiki is a great, short getaway. Upon arrival at the port, Kanako Kuniyoshi, the owner of Reef INN Kuniyoshi met me with a bright smile at the parking lot, where buses from various accommodation facilities meet their guests.
Kanako said, “Unfortunately, it’s not sunny today, but think of it as a natural shower and have fun in the ocean. But, do hear that? You can hear the cicadas, right? When they buzz, the weather’s supposed to clear up, so don’t let the weather dampen your mood.” She continued, “See all the electric poles along the roads? But you don’t see street lamps, do you? This is why on clear nights, we can see the Milky Way very clearly.”
Along the way to the inn, a ride that lasted about ten minutes, Kanako gave us a great orientation on the wonderful things about Tokashiki like a tour guide. To be honest, we were a little disappointed with the weather, but her talk really cheered us up.
“In Tokashiki, the cicadas continue to buzz all the way through November. In December, the humpback whales arrive with their young, and the area becomes a great whale-watching point. And April, the beaches officially open.”
The seemingly slow passing of time on the island was actually very busy and full of life throughout the year. As we took in our first views of the beautiful nature on the island, the bus soon arrived at Kanako’s inn.
Kanako’s inn boasted a great location, which was only a minute on foot from the beach, and Water Kids, the diving shop that shares her building offers various marine activities. To top it off, her guests are treated to great meals, a taste of home, offering catch of the day, and traditional pork dishes.
The dinner menu changes every day. She may serve bananafish, mahi mahi, or other fish enjoyed in Okinawa. Some of the traditional pork dishes may be “rafute”, or on another night, it may be the famous goya champuru, a bitter melon stir-fry. She wants her guests to enjoy various tastes, so for side dishes, she prepares “kubu irichi”, a konbu seaweed stir-fry, or “somen champuru”, a fried noodle dish. She may also serve tofu stir-fry, an Okinawan favorite, or shallots grown on the island. Whatever the menu may be, you’ll enjoy the variety and taste which will surely satisfy your appetite, especially after a day of fun on the beach. Tokashiki has rice paddies on the island, which is rare on the Kerama Islands, so after harvest season, guests may enjoy Tokashiki grown red-kerneled rice.
*For lunch, you can enjoy Tokashiki Ramen topped with Asa seaweed and Okinawan kamaboko fishcakes, or Taco Rice for 750 yen.
Reef INN Kuniyoshi opened in 1972, the year of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, and it was the very first accommodation facility that opened on Tokashiki Island. After a major renovation in 1990, the Inn was reborn with bathrooms in every room. Kanako moved to the island upon her marriage, and has been running the inn together with her second son, Haruhiro. The comfortable woman’s touch of the inn attracts solo female travelers throughout the year.
Kanako’s message to her guests is “take off your armors and enjoy yourself as you are.” She told me with a brilliant smile, “When I told my father, who was also a fan of Okinawa, that I was going to marry and move to Tokashiki Island, he said that I was naïve and too wishful. But you know, I’m glad I came here. The people of the island enjoy their self-sufficient lifestyle, and the energy of the island is something you won’t feel in ritzy resorts. These are all a great part of the island.”
Her son, Haruhiro, plays a central role in the efforts to protect the coral reef surrounding the island. During his years in college, he participated in the project headed by the fishermen’s cooperative in ridding the problematic crown-of-thorns starfish, and that’s when he “realized for the first time that the island I lived on was internationally, very important.” He reflects, “I was helping out with the family diving business since I was in high school, and because I was always surrounded by the sea, and playing in the sea since I was a child, I never really thought about the coral or protecting them, because it was perfectly normal for them to always be there.” Since then, he worked closely with Ryukyu Sango-Kun, a foundation to support coral growth, and went on study tours with them, and headed their coral reef-building efforts. Every year, on March 5, he heads a coral transplant event which has now become an all-island effort.
Kanako has always been by his side, warmly watching over her son and his environmental work. Kanako says, “When I first got here, I used to try to boast to the guests about everything great about Tokashiki. But I’m even more confident now when I tell them that we really have nothing to offer but the wonderful seas, so to please enjoy our island.” And enjoying, they were. While on the island, I met a number of visitors who were truly enjoying themselves here.
Reef INN Kuniyoshi
Address: 178 Aharen, Tokashiki Village, Shimajiri-fun, Okinawa
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda