Okinawa Guide: Yokatsu Islands 与勝諸島
The Yokatsu Island chain consists of a number of both inhabited and uninhabited islands off the east coast of the Yokatsu Peninsula (Katsuren Peninsula) on Okinawa main island.
Henzajima is a small island off the east coast of the main island of Okinawa, connected by the Kaichu-doro, a 4.7km-long causeway and bridge from the Yokatsu Peninsula (Katsuren Peninsula). Henzajima is also connected by other bridges to Hamahiga Island, Miyagi Island and Ikei Island. The four islands are administered as part of Uruma city.
The sea on either side of the Kaichu-doro is popular with windsurfers and there is a beach and rest area midway along it with a souvenir shop, a restaurant with sea views and food stalls. Inside the rest area is the small Uruma City Sea Culture Museum.
Much of Henza Island is taken up with huge crude oil storage tanks and the sea that existed between Henza and Miyagi islands was filled in and reclaimed to accommodate them.
Before the Kaichu-doro was built it was possible to cross from Henzajima to the mainland of Okinawa at low tide.
Miyagijima is dedicated more to sugar cane cultivation than oil storage, the residents having successfully opposed the plan to construct storage tanks on the island in the 1970's.
There are some spectacular beaches on the east coast like these (pictured) at Akana and Ukuno. Signs warn of the dangerous undercurrents and rip tides here, however.
In 1974 landfill basically joined Miyagijima to Henzajima though there is a small stretch of sea between the two crossed by a bridge. The island was once a place of exile during the Ryukyu Kingdom period of Okinawa's history.
Look out for a number of impressive Okinawan style tombs on Miyagijima.
Ikeijima is connected by a short bridge to Miyagijima. The island has some wonderful beaches including Ikei Island Beach and Oodomari Beach. There is a fee to enter the beaches and a variety of marine sports on offer.
The rest of the island, which has a permanent population of just over 300 people, is devoted to agriculture including sugar cane, leaf tobacco and yams. In the north of the island is the AJ Resort Island Ikeijima and a lighthouse.
Hamahigajima is connected by the Hamahiga Bridge to Henzajima that was completed in 1997. Since the completion of the bridge tourism on this island of just over 500 inhabitants has increased. The Hotel Hamahigashima Resort Hotel is a major development on the eastern side of the island. Muruku Beach is a lovely strand of white sand and turquoise water on the island.
Hamahigajima has a number of tombs and caves dating from the Gusuku Period of Okinawan history. Shirumichu Cave is connected with the creation myths of the ancient Okinawans and various other sacred shrines scatter the island.
Tsukenjima lies further south than the other islands in the Yokatsu group and can only be reached by ferry. There is only one "town" on the island in the south west corner.
Tsukenjima is home to less than 500 inhabitants. Its economy is based on agriculture - the farming of carrots is a speciality - and tourism.
Part of the island is occupied by a US Army training facility.
Yabuchijima lies just off the Katsuren Peninsula and is connected by bridge. The island is not permanently settled, though it is farmed for rice. Yabuchijima is noted for its large population of habu snakes and the discovery of a cave in 1959 (Yabuchi Cave Ruins) that showed evidence of settlement (pottery shards and shell arrow heads) from over 6,500 years ago. The caves now contain various shrines associated with Okinawan ancestor worship.
Ukibarajima 浮原島 & Minamiukibarajima 南浮原島
Ukibarajima and Minamiukibara are two inhabited islands in the group, south of Hamahigajima. Ukibarajima is used by the US military and is off limits to public access.
In a hire car driving from Naha, Uruma is about 40km and 40 minutes on the Okinawa Expressway. The quickest way to get to the Kaichu-doro is to exit the Okinawa Expressway at the Kitanakagusuku I.C. and then take the road running along the east coast variously national highways 227, 85, 33, and 37.
The Kaichu-doro and Hamahiga Bridge connect Henza, Miyagi, Ikei and Hamahiga islands to Uruma and local community buses run to all four islands from Yonashiro.
From the JA Okinawa Yonashiro branch (just over Kaichu-doro on Okinawa Island) there is a bus every two hours to Henza, Miyagi, Ikei and Hamahiga islands departing at 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. The 8am bus does not run on Sunday.
Bus Timetable in Japanese
From Naha Bus Terminal there are buses to Yakena Bus Terminal that stop at JA Okinawa Yonashiro. The quickest of these buses take about 90 minutes depending on Okinawa's congested traffic.
From Tsuken Island there is both a high-speed ferry (12 minutes) and regular car ferry (30 minutes) to Heshikiya on the Katsuren Peninsula. There are departures from Heshikiya at 7am (high-speed ferry), 9am, 11am, 2pm and 5pm (high-speed ferry).
This timetable dates from 2014 and was checked as correct in May 2016