If you really love hiking, Okinawa is the LAST place you would think to visit in Japan, right? More well known for white sandy beaches, snorkeling, Okinawa is kind of flat...
Wrong! As long as you can make it all the way to the very very south of the prefecture (yes, next to Taiwan) to a little island gem in the Yaeyama Archipelago called Ishigaki. You have to take an airplane, it is the only way there, though luckily that means you get to experience the spankin' new Ishigaki Airport; It boasts the island's only Starbucks, where even the locals hang out.
Ishigaki also boasts the most delicious pineapple in the world, and is one of the few places in all of Japan that is hot enough to grow any pineapple, let alone the world's most delicious varieties, of which there are many. Along with massive mangos that go for up to ¥2000 (about $20) a piece!
I mention the "pine" as it is simply called in Japanese here because you are going to need a sweet snack to take on your hike up Mount Omoto (525.5m), along with a ton of water (at least 2 liters per hiker, maybe three in summer) and good hiking shoes (though the locals do it in sandals, I do not endorse this.)
You might already be thinking, "Hey wait a second, 525 m? Converted to feet that's what...1,724 ft? You call that a hike?" And yes, compared to 10-hour round trip treks on Yakushima or a week lost in the Japanese Alps of Nagano Prefecture, it pales in comparison. (As Mount Omoto sulks, drops her shoulders and shuffles away in shame.)
But, a few redemptive qualities of this trek are as follows:
- Tree ferns you can eat
- A chance to scale a cell phone tower near the top (If you aren't averse to a little adventurous trespassing)
- The best view on a clear day for miles around
- Really earning that large bowl of Yaeyama Soba (it's actually closer to ramen) you are going to gorge on for lunch
- It just takes about 2 hours round-trip (at a healthy trot)
In all seriousness though, Mount Omoto is a pleasant hike. The climb is steep at times, and those not accustomed to climbing stairs for an hour straight, will need some breaks. Plus, you may very well have the trail almost all to yourself!