The summer’s sizzling hot pavement means it’s time to leave the city and head for the beaches. Itoshima, less than 25 kilometers west of Tenjin, is another world. Gentle green countryside, natural beaches, blue skies, friendly easygoing people and a slew of laid-back cool hang-outs. Australian Julia (super-genki, high-tension) and Canadian Jason braved the Kyushu sun and set out on bicycles to show us around.
Blue sky, wind on our backs – we’re rolling…
But wait! They’re already at SUNSET CAFE, the “original” Itoshima seaside hangout in Futamigaura. Much more polished than in years past, the former surfers’ shack now sports a full kitchen and deluxe outdoor deck. Jason & Julia refuel with fresh juices.
Just 500 meters down the road, they’ve stopped again; this time at TRACE, a new cafe made from two refurbished railway containers. Large bay windows offer killer views of the sea and sunset. Lunch, dinner, cocktails and beverages are offered – but our crew opted for soft ice cream.
Open: 12:00~OS 22:30
Probably Itoshima’s most recognizeable landmark, Meoto Iwa, or “the couple rocks”. Linked by a heavy rope, they symbolize the importance of relationships. Fifteen minutes later they’ved cycled back inland and dropped in on Mako-san, owner of RUSTIC BARN, a small home converted into a tranquil Baliesque retreat. Once inside, our duo chilled off with Mako’s homemade herbal teas and a slice of her cheesecake (more sugar!). It was hard to get them to leave this shady spot but they both promised to return to try her curry next time.
Civilization? Almost in the middle of nowhere – convenience! The 7-11 at the Nogita intersection is the perfect place to get beach gear, picinic goods, bento, beverage and stockings. Why did Julia buy black stockings? Read on… Rested and recharged, Jason suggests they leave the gentle “Sunset Road” course and head into the mountains. The most challenging section: the ascent of Mt. Hiyama (2,100m) to the hanglider launch ramp and a breathtaking view of Keya.
Aaaah, the glide down…
Back along the seaside road in Nogita, the hot’n’sweaty twosome spot a sign to the beach. In winter, Nogita’s beaches are popular with surfers. In the warmer months, the calm shallow waters are great for swimming. This wasn’t lost on Julia, who changed and went for a dip while Jason played lifeguard. Just off Nogita Beach, CADILLAC RANCH, a recently opened seaside cafe-bar, is the next stop. Southeast Asian backpackers will dig their Kaopat (Thai fried rice), nan pizza, coconut shakes and other beach-bungalow flavors.
Open: 12:00~22:00, Fri. 17:00~24:00, Sat.12:00~24:00
Also along Nogita Beach, and also brand new, is Kuro-chan’s mobile kitchen and bar HINODE. From his self-renovated truck, he serves scrumptious taco-rice, tacos, cold beer and cocktails. Jason and Julia dig in once again…
Ya’man. Roots, reggae and chicken! Jamaican Jerk chicken that is. Just beyond Nogita, Jason takes Julia to his favorite spot: the infamous NATTY DREAD. Also a mobile kitchen, owner and rastaman Katsura-san drives his magic bus to a clearing overlooking a small bay. Jerk chicken, Red Stripe, and the HUGE Special Burger – Yum!
Back to the beach, bikes and all. Sharp eyes will notice Julia now has stockings on. She believes they’ll protect her from jellyfish stings. Aaaaaah, but there are no jellyfish till late August… oh well.
Further down the road, and off the main track, our tireless team decides to make one more stop before the home stretch to Keya. Aptly named, Nonbiri Village is a collection of shops and projects including a handmade soba shop. Julia helps slide the noodles down Jason’s throat.
Just minutes outside of Keya town, the couple decide to check out a final spot. Unfortunately it was closed. The decidely understated Bamboo Cafe may reopen this summer, but no promises.
Now entering bustling Keya town… Ta-da! Arrived! And just in time to catch the sunset on Keya Beach. It was a big day and we deserve this…
“I’m not going anywhere – don’t even think about it…” Sure they could have tried to pedal back to the city that night, but with the Keya Campground just behind the beach, and the prospect of a stunning sunrise in less than 12 hours, the two decide to stay in Itoshima for at least another day…