CONTRIBUTED BY QUENTIN RICHARDSON
Anywhere from Manzamo to Motobu facing out west toward the sea, you see an island not too far out with a cone-shaped mountain at its center. This island is known as Ie-jima, and its tallest peak is Mount Gusuku also known as “Gusuku Yama.” This sacred mountain is home to prayer sites and a short, but steep hike.
Easily acessible by road, part of the climb starts with a road wrapping around the base of the mountain from a road on the east side or a trail coming up from the south. Near the entrance to the steeper climb, there is an observation deck where you can purchase local goodies and a parking area.
The entrance to the climb is on the southern face of the mountain marked by a signpost resembling wood. The stair climb begins quickly with a sharp turn left, and steep zig-zag flights of concrete stairs hug the cliff face. Along the journey, you will see prayer sites and people praying at them. DO NOT DISTURB THEM OR THE SITES! As you ascend upward, you get a glimpse of the fields and airstrip as you get closer to the peak you get a full panoramic view of the western side of the island.
Near the peak, the trail get a little rocky, so be careful! Upon reaching the summit, you get the full 360 degree view of Ie-jima as well as other nearby sites, like little Minna-Jima, the Motobu peninsula and Expo Park. There is a marker to let you know exactly where the summit is.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to climb depending on what kind of shape you are in, and since 90% of the climb is steps, medium-sized kids can go up, but keep them close since the edges are very steep. You can access this site via tours from Kadena ITT or MCCS Okinawa or visit this site on your own in conjunction with a stay at the YYY Resort.
Directions: To get here on your own, you will need to take a 30 minute ferry to Ie-jima from Motobu Port. Drive up Highway 58 through Nago and turn left on to Highway 449. Drive up the coast until you reach Motobu just before Sesoko Island Bridge. Since there is a lot of construction, it is difficult to tell exactly where the turn off (a left turn) for the port is, so just use Google. The ferry costs 1,330 yen per passenger, you have to call ahead if you want to take your car, but it’s cheaper to rent a bike.
From the Port, head west to find Pref. Route 225 heading northbound. Continue north past the Village Office taking a right at the first fork in the road then a left at the second. The entrance ramp comes up on you left once you are centered against the mountain.