Day 1 – Kume Island, Okinawa (Kumejima)
My two teenage daughters were not very excited about the idea of a trip to Japan until we mentioned the possibility of staying at a tropical resort. I think they liked the idea of tanning on a white sand beach, taking occasional swims in the beautiful blue ocean, and watching for attractive young men in swimsuits. Whatever the reason, I was glad to have their support in planning a visit to Okinawa where we were staying at the Rihga Royal Gran Okinawa Hotel in Naha.
They humored me for the day we stayed in Naha, going to Shuri Castle was labeled, “OK enough.” They liked the Okinawan dance at the Urashima Dinner well enough, but opted for the steak dinner instead of venturing into the realm of Okinawan cuisine.
They were thrilled to find tacos for lunch at a local place called Charlie’s Tacos, claiming that Naha was more civilized as far as food than anywhere else we had been in Japan. They also claimed the shisa guardian lions were “cute” and Chrystal got a cell phone fob and Carla got a small shisa for her bookshelf.
But they were plenty ready to be out of Naha. It took less time than usual to go through their morning ablutions, eat breakfast, and be on our way to the Naha airport. We ended up on a tiny propeller plane we had booked from RAC (Ryukyu Air Commuter) which was deemed “kinda scary but kinda fun.” Thankfully it was only a half hour flight, because I was starting to get motion sickness even though the day was clear.
The airport on Kume Island (Kumejima) was about the smallest I have ever seen, with only one runway and a little waiting room. But that meant no hassle getting off the plane and out to the shuttle bus which was waiting to take us and three other passengers to the Cypress Resort Kumejima which in Japanese is サイプレスリゾート久米島ホームページ .
I was pleased to have found a good package on the hotel, but even more pleased when we got there and saw the place in person. It was glittering white against the blue sky, and after checking in, we found ourselves in a surprisingly large suite with a magnificent view of the ocean. There was a white sand beach with a bathing area hemmed in by coral which looked like it had been created just for my daughters’ dreams.
After bouncing on the bed and exploring the drawers, closets, and bathroom for amenities, they change into their swimsuits and headed toward the beach, saying they would be back in time for lunch. They were back two minutes later because Carla had forgotten the sun tan lotion, then were off again. I haven’t seen them so purely excited about something like this since they entered the teenage period of being critical of everything.
My wife and I got things settled in the room, then strolled to the pool. It was beautiful and large, built on several levels that seemed to cascade down to the beach below. The aquamarine ocean blended into the sky and did not seem real. We sank into lounge chairs, and I promptly fell asleep in the warm sunshine.
The next thing I knew, my wife was standing over me, toweling her hair after a long swim. She looked so happy and content. I was surprised to find out that I had been asleep for an hour, and it was time to go and get lunch. We decided to eat at the hotel, and were pleased with the selection at the restaurant. The girls bubbled on about how wonderful the beach was, and how they were ready to go back after the meal.
We ended up deciding to split up for the afternoon on Kumejima. The girls said they would be in the room or at the pool or beach. My wife and I rented a pair of bikes and went for a long ride through the little town to the countryside beyond it. We didn’t have a destination in mind, but just enjoyed being outside and seeing new things. Everything was different from home. Not just the trees and sand and sky, but the sounds and smells and even the quality of the air.
We stopped at a café for a rest and enjoyed some fresh-squeezed shikuwasa juice, a local specialty that is some sort of citrus, tart and delicious. It was a leisurely afternoon, we probably were on the bikes less than we were sitting and enjoying the views.
Back at our suite in the Kumejima Cypress Resort, the girls were painting their toenails and giggling about someone they had seen at the pool. We left them to their devices and dressed for dinner, which we decided to have at a restaurant we had seen not far from the hotel. It had tantalizing seafood dishes followed by a decadent mango parfait.
While we walked back to the hotel, the girls were planning how we should cancel the rest of our Japanese vacation and spend the remainder here on Kume Island. I think my wife and I were caught up by their contagious enthusiasm, or maybe it was the soft evening breeze. In any case, we strolled hand in hand and I felt younger and lighter than I have in years.