I recently went to Okinawa. Japan consists of 47 prefectures or states and this is the only one I had not seen. At nearly 3 hours flying south it is only a little bit less than to the Philippines and quite different to the rest of Japan.
Okinawa has a tropical climate not dissimilar to my home town region so I was looking forward to warm weather even in winter. However in the run up to this trip the weather forecast was for rain and temperatures that were half normal for this time of year. In other words lousy for motorcycling.
I had mapped out a ride long ago, north along the coast to the cape. I ended up exploring a good portion of the island but achieved this by four wheels due to weather. I am going to pass on some information for riding there and just put a few other thoughts into this post.
I had been going to rent a motorcycle in Okinawa from Rental Bike Apro who have a range of small bikes, I was interested in their Yamaha XJR400 or a Honda CB400 Super four. A 400cc would be ample I thought given Okinawa island is small but there but bigger bikes also available if you need room or want to ride two up. They have rider gear and pickup from hotel and airport transfer services but it is not far from the monorail either.
Well as mentioned the weather forecast was lousy and indeed upon arrival it was cold rain blowing across the streets and felt little different to where I had just come from. Across the road from the bike rental shop is Nissan car rental so I gave up on riding.
Navigating Okinawa is so easy, everything is well signposted and in dual language. You could ride without a GPS it is that straight forward, but as always a GPS will make it so much easier and let you focus on the scenery more. There is just a small section of expressway north which whisks you out of the city and past the giant US air force base that I never saw anything of. The historic sites are all ruins, fortifications only and I would advise not to spend much time on them.
I visited one of the ‘castles’ but nothing more than a few stones so leave that for mainland Japan. The modern architecture however is very interesting. Most of the houses seem to have been built at the same time in the same style, namely mid century flat roof which reminds me of the modernist style I was once very interested in however in Okinawa they are all two level raised to capture the breeze in the hot summers. If you enjoy that era I think you will be delighted to be surrounded in early 60’s style buildings. There is also plenty of space compared to Japan with wider roads and large house blocks and all this of course relates to Okinawa being an overseas territory of the USA after World War 2 up to 1972.
While driving I had time to reflect on my current motorcycle and pondering if I should change it soon. It is due for a new safety certificate which is an expensive item here costing about $500 for another two years (initial one lasts 3 years from new). It also needs new tyres, about $350 for a set of Bridgestone BT-023 GT radials if I order them online then another $60-70 to have them fitted by my local shop. Oddly if I buy them from the shop they cost about $200 more and still have same fitting cost.
Servicing this bike is really just change of oil for this year. Very low maintenance motorcycle. I can do the oil change myself for about $40 using generic brand oil and filter Vs genuine Yamaha branded oil and filter and shop labour costing much more. The yearly road tax and insurance is also due, they total about $350.
Timing wise now would be good to trade in I guess however second hand vehicles here do not retain much value. So unlike Australia where a FJR1300 retails for $25,000 and three years old would still be worth reasonable money here it was about $13,000 new and three years old with some scratch marks trade in would be maybe 1/3rd.
I am attracted mostly to naked bikes, and older or retro styling. If I was back in warm Australia doing day rides I would strongly consider a Yamaha XSR900. It is the MT-09 I enjoyed so much in New Zealand in a neo retro style.
I previously owned the very retro Honda CB1100 in Australia however having rented one here previously there is zero protection from the wind and they are not a good long distance motorcycle nor are any of the naked bikes.
If I was going for a retro motorcycle now I would have to consider the Kawasaki ZRX1200. It’s looks are 80’s with the square headlight and turbine smooth lazy power from another air/oil cooled inline 4 I like best. Here is a 1200 and the earlier 1100 version I saw on the Sunday at Cape Hedo in Okinawa when the sun made an appearance. The small screen would make would of difference for touring.
The road up to the cape is ‘the’ motorcycle road and it reminded me at times of the southern coast of Sicily as the water was often a beautiful aqua blue shade.
You can visit the connecting islands on beautiful bridges.
And explore the many small coves and beaches on the islands.
And further riding from the Cape on the east is also accessible.
The southern coast has less good riding roads but would be scenic on a fine day. There is however a very interesting park and museum about the battle of Okinawa from World War two.
A weekend might seem like not much but it is not a large area to cover and two days you could easy ride the whole island. The capital city Naha is small compared to Tokyo so the traffic is modest.
Renting a motorcycle anywhere seems to cost as much as two or three times that of a car and Okinawa is not much different however the 400cc bikes and smaller would be enough and are a little more affordable.
I went to the famous aquarium while there and whilst it is huge the crowds were even bigger. Thousands and thousands of people. Literally. And this was the off season. Bit difficult to enjoy to be honest.
(Snip) I edited out a lot of boring text here.
I may end up on the FJR1300 another year. The FJR1300 is too heavy however it rewards a easier pace and I want to take everything in when riding here. I cannot easy do day rides unfortunately so if only riding long tours each year then doing that on a tourer probably makes some sense.