Giiza Banta (慶座絶壁), Okinawa
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Dramatic cliff outlook over southern Okinawa
After having travelled to the northern tip of the main island of Okinawa it seemed only fitting to conclude our trip at one of the most southerly points of island - Giiza Banta (慶座絶壁), labelled as “cliff” on Google Maps. Giiza Banta was an unexpected treat. Southern Okinawa is far more urbanized than points north where there seemed to be a dramatic vista around every bend of the empty roads (especially in the east). Here in the south, the machinations of people making money and setting up home are ever present and the landscape is one of houses, farms and scrappy towns. The good-time holiday vibes are dispersed and the brutal reality of making a living more prominent. It was pleasing then to stumble upon the final dramatic vista laid forth at Giiza Banta. The craggy cliff-based view spot is just a short spurt in the car northeast from the sombre and contemplative Peace Memorial Park. It’s not the easiest of places to spot from the window of your car but be sure to keep the eyes peeled for it (or have a decent navigation system on board) because this place is a beauty. Heading out of the peace park on Route 331 look for a nondescript road on your right that heads to The Southern Links Golf Club. Once you’re on this road persist with it right up until it looks like you’re going to spoil the greens with your tires. Then you’re turning right again onto a bit of an off-road track which gets a bit sketchy and may be best to avoid after heavy rains (there were some nervous moments here as we had about two hours to go until we returned the rental). Stick with it though and you’ll soon come to a tiny parking area (which doesn’t really look like a parking area). Pull up and there is a trail / steps leading down to the ocean. You’re not particularly high up at Giiza Banta but to your left the south of Okinawa peels out before you, all rocky and craggy, a far cry from the manicured resorts on the west coast. Watch your step as things are slippering around here. The stairs lead down to a series of massive rocks that are probably as old as they look (except for the large industrial slab that you end up standing on). Here you’re pretty close to some dramatic waves that will have surfers cursing their proximity to the limb-crunching rocks. There’s nothing to do down here other than take in the view, which is a fine one. The trail / steps simply lead up and down from where you parked the car and the rocks closest to the water should be stepped on upon your peril, although when the tide pulls out you might be able to have a poke around in some the rock pools. If you’ve a half hour spare in the south of Okinawa, Giiza Banta is worthy of your presence. In fact, you’ll likely be the only ones enjoying the spot which only serves to make it feel more special. I couldn’t find much in the way of information about Giiza Banta or why it should be marked on the map and given a name, but here it is and that, really, should be enough. Needless to say, access is free, as is the parking.
Asato, Yaese, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture 901-0514