Now this I could get used to waking up to.
I confess, I did not grow up beach camping, despite spending the first two decades of my life on an island. In Trinidad we may have spent millions of hours on the beach, but it was 15 minutes from home so we never camped out. We went hiking many, many times, but never pitched a tent along the river and curried a duck. And on weekends we rented holiday homes, with air conditioning, ice machines, and hot showers, so were never ‘deprived’ of our creature comforts.
Despite my somewhat posh (spoilt?) upbringing, getting back to basics at the campground on Yagaji Beach proved to be great fun, and one night was not nearly enough. We packed up the tiny car to the brim, with our tent, fold-out mattresses, pillows, beach chairs and table, and set out from Naha early in the morning. By lunch time we were setting up shop under the trees and making ourselves at home. We had the entire beach to ourselves, other than one young family in a camper van, and some old ladies who came by at low tide to collect clams from the sand.
There is definitely something therapeutic about leaving your daily life behind and getting back to nature. Nothing to do but look out at the sea, feel the sun on your shoulders, and wiggle your toes in the sand. During the afternoon we walked across the spit of sand to the other island, dipped in the sea (a bit too chilly), harassed hermit crabs, and built sand castles. At night we lit a fire and cooked some food, cracked open some cold beers, and just listened to the ocean. We were all fast asleep by 9pm, with the cool sea breeze blowing through the tent.
Yagaji Beach does provide the basic comforts: clean toilets, hot showers, and even the ubiquitous Japanese vending machine if you suddenly need something like grape soda. Best of all, you can enjoy feeling like you are somewhere remote, but in fact be just five minutes from both a roadside station and a convenience store selling hot food and cold beer, and 15 minutes to the town of Nago, with a wide variety of restaurants and supermarkets. If you were super lazy, you could go to Yagaji and not take any food at all, because some onigiri and Orion beer is never far away.
(Note: Yagaji Campsite also has some bungalows for rent, with aircon, if camping is not your thing)
On day two, after packing up camp, we took a little drive to the nearby Kouri Jima, along an incredibly long and very beautiful bridge across a pristine turquoise sea. Most of this area remains very rural, with farm land and tractors. There are a few guest houses and cafes, but not much else. Nonetheless, a beautiful and scenic drive.
Beach camping I will definitely do again! And for much longer than one night. Okinawa is full of campsites so there is a lot more to explore.
Yagaji Beach requires reservations to be sure to call – don’t just show up.