The Yaeyama archipelago is located 450 kilometers southeast of mainland Okinawa. With Ishigaki Island as its center, Hateruma Island, Hatoma Island and Yufu Islands, etc. belongs to the southernmost archipelago of Okinawa. In particular, Iriomote Island and Yonaguni Island are world famous. While Iriomote Island is covered by a dense ancient jungle and is home to many rare creatures, Yonaguni Island is famous for its mysterious seabed topography called “underwater ruins”. Moreover, several other islands feature traditional Okinawan style homes. These islands have inherited the traditions of the past to the present. In Yaeyama, time passes slowly in its own way unlike mainland Japan and Okinawa.
Iriomote Island is 90% covered by a dense semitropical jungle and is home to precious wild animals such as the Iriomote wildcat. In particular, the mangroves taking root at the mouth of the river, where the freshwater and seawater mix, is a symbol of nature on Iriomote Island. One of Japan’s largest mangrove forests along the Nakama River is protected by the national government. Canoeing and trekking are especially recommended on Iriomote Island. You can get up close to the animals and plants, and nature, which can only be seen here at the spectacular waterfall and beach with its star-shaped sand, awaits your visit.
Yonaguni Island is Japan’s westernmost island. It is said that on a clear day, the islands of Taiwan can be seen at the horizon. This island has an abundance of nature and is home to “Yonagunisan”, the largest moth in Japan. Recently, the seabed topography of this island called “underwater ruins” has become famous as pleasure-diving spot. Underwater ruins refer to the large rock reef 100 kilometers offshore to the south of the island. Some people say these are ancient ruins as they appear man made and research on these formations is still ongoing. Since special tour boats with underwater windows are also available, why not try solving the mystery with your own eyes?
Ishigaki Island/Taketomi Island
In the Yaeyama Region, different islands offer different views. On Ishigaki Island, there are lively urban areas such as markets with lines of Yaeyama food stalls, magnificent views of nature including Kabira Bay which has been designated as a best scenery site by the national government, and Tamatorizaki Observatory, with its abundant hibiscus flowers. On Taketomi Island located next to Ishigaki Island, the images of traditional towns comprised of houses with red roof tiles are especially memorable. Time is easily forgotten if you happen to take a leisurely tour of the island by oxcart.