Miyakojima is a group of islands, most of which are connected by some magnificent bridges. The three large bridges, Ikema Bridge, Irabu Bridge and Kurima Bridge are famed for their beauty and elegant design. It is common, when visiting Miyakojima, to make a “bridge tour” where you see and cross all three majestic bridges in one day.
The three bridges all connect Miyako Island to surrounding smaller islands. Therefore, they are named after the island they connect to – respectively Ikema Island, Irabu Island and Kurima Island.
With a length of 3540 meters (2.2mi) Irabu Ohashi is the longest of the three major bridges of Miyako. It is also the newest bridge, as it opened for traffic in 2015. Since the opening, construction of resorts and hotels on Irabu and Shimoji Islands has heavily increased and the tiny airport has started seeing more traffic.
The “double hump” design and curved shape gives the bridge a uniquely beautiful appearance, making it seem almost like a natural feature in the landscape. From the Makiyama Observation Deck on Irabu Island, there is a unique view of the bridge in it’s entirety.
Opened in 1995, Kurima Ohashi connects Kurima Island to Miyako Island. The bridge spans 1690 meters (1.05mi), making it the second longest of the three bridges. It can be crossed by motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians alike.
The narrow strait between Kurima Island and Miyako Island makes the view from Kurima Bridge unique. The appearance of the strait is visibly changing with the tides and weather. The color of the shallow water changes between stunning tones of turquoise and blue and from the flat parts of the bridge, especially towards the Miyako-side, the chances of spotting sea turtles is quite high.
Despite being the shortest of the three major bridges in Miyakojima today, Ikema Ohashi was actually the longest bridge in Okinawa when it opened in 1992. The bridge spans 1425 meters (0.89mi) and connects Ikema island to Miyako island.
On Ikema Island, just after you cross the bridge, the is a rest area with parking, food, souvenirs and a terrific view of the bridge. color of the water is especially stunning when seen from this angle.
Observatories with bridge views
There are great observatories for bridge watching on each of the three islands. Below are the recommended spots for each of the three islands.
- Kurima Island: Kurima Ohashi Observatory (来間大橋展望台)
- Irabu Island: Makiyama Observation Deck
- Ikema Island: Parking lot just across the bridge
Getting around by car or motorcycle is by far the easiest way to explore the bridge of Miyakojima. You can also find arranged tours around the island – ask at your hotel or resort for help to find a tour. Hotel Hibiscus on Kurima island offers a bridge tour.
You should schedule around 4 hours for the bridge tour if you want to explore all bridges properly. Make sure to take the required time to go to the observatories which are near all the bridges – this will get you the best view possible.
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Cover photo © OCVB.