Experience the True Meaning of "Island Life"

Famous for its world class beaches and laid back lifestyle, the Miyako region is located located 300 kilometers south of Okinawa Main Island and is known for some of Japan's best beaches and as a great destination for snorkeling and diving in the coral reefs. The sub tropical climate provides mild weather year around. 

A Coral Island Paradise

[Access: 45 minute flight from the main island of Okinawa]

The fourth largest island in Okinawa Prefecture, Miyako is a relatively flat island made of elevated coral reef and lacks any major hills or mountains. it is mostly covered by sugar cane fields and a few towns, among which Hirara is the largest with a moderate range of restaurants and bars. Resort hotels and pensions are found across the island. Unlike other parts of Okinawa, Miyako is free of habu snakes. Picturesque sand beaches provide an excellent environment for swimming and relaxing and the coral reefs are perfect for snorkeling.

Island highlights include:

Yonaha Maehama Beach

Also known as Maehama Beach, this white sand beach in the southwestern corner of Miyako usually leads rankings of Japan's best beaches. It stretches seven kilometers and is suited for swimming and various other water sports. The beach is also known for beautiful sunsets. Its facilities include showers, toilets and a rental shop.

Yoshino Beach

Also referred to as Yoshino Kaigan, this is the best beach on Miyako for snorkeling. Swarms of colorful fish surround you as soon as you enter the water. And a few steps further starts the maze of a spectacular coral reef with an abundance of marine life. Beach facilities include showers, toilets and a rental shop.

Sunayama Beach

With its white sand, clear blue waters and rock formations, Sunayama Beach is another of Miyako's most beautiful beaches. It is reached in a short walk over a sand dune from the parking lot. Its facilities include showers and toilets.

Cape Higashi-Henna

Cape Higashi-Hennazaki protrudes into the sea in a way that seemingly divides the Pacific Ocean to the south and the East China Sea to the north over a distance of 2 kilometers of dynamic landscape, and has also been designated as a national site of scenic beauty. It is also known as Cape Agari-Hennazaki. “Agari” is written as “east” in Japanese and is pronounced as “agari” in Okinawan language. Due to its location being prone to constant strong winds, the trees do not grow very tall, resulting in a community of plants with a distinctive windswept formation. The cape is a unique natural environment and has been designated by the prefecture as a natural treasure. The view taken from in front of the lighthouse is absolutely spectacular.

Tuyumya Grave

Located in central Hirara near the port, the Tuyumya Grave enshrines Nakasone Tuyumya (Toyomiya in standard Japanese), a leader of Miyako in the 16th century who gained fame for fighting off an attack from Ishigaki Island. He was honored at the end of his life by the islanders with a beautiful grave site that eventually became a big part of the Okinawan culture.

The Three Island Bridges


Miyako is connected to three of its smaller, neighboring islands by gracefully shaped bridges. Irabu Bridge is Japan's longest toll-free bridge, spanning 3.5 kilometers to Irabu Island. At the northern tip of Miyako, the 1.4 kilometer long Ikema Ohashi leads to Ikema Island, while the 1.7 kilometer long Kurima Ohashi connects Kurima Island with Miyako in the southwest. All three bridges are freely traversable by car, motorcycle, bicycle or on foot.

A Fisherman's Town Vibe

[Access: 45 minute flight from the main island of Okinawa to Miyako & by car across Irabu Bridge]

Irabu Island is the second largest island among the islands that make up the Miyako Islands. It lies on the western side of Miyakojima to which it is connected by a 3,540m long bridge, opened in January of 2015, making it easier to visit from Miyako Island by car. On the western side of Irabu is the smaller Shimoji island, where there is an international airport. The size of Irabu island makes it suitable for a day trip from Miyakojima, but it is also a terrific place to book accommodation for your entire stay. The towns are big enough that they have restaurants and super markets, the beaches are gorgeous and it is less busy than Miyakojima. A scene similar to that of a painting depicting a foreign fisherman’s town extends before your eyes. Tourist locations are scattered throughout the island, such as Sawada no Hama Beach, dotted with large rocks and selected as one of the top 100 beaches of Japan, as well as Toguchi no Hama Beach, where white sand stretches roughly 800 meters from the east to the west.

Island highlights include:

Sawada no Hama Beach

Dotted with large rocks and selected as one of the top 100 beaches of Japan, Sawada no hama has a picnic area, bathroom, and showers, as well as a vending machine for drinks. Guests will need to bring their own chairs and umbrellas. The beach offers white sand, clear water and great opportunity to swim and admire the rich marine life

Toguchi no Hama Beach

Situated on the southwest of Irabu Island, the natural sand beach spreads about 50m wide, about 800m long as it unfolds in a gentle curve. Highly transparent water shows pure white sand on the sea bottom, its clear waters brimming with various tropical fish. The beach offers limited amenities, but it does have a toilet and pay shower. Bring along some water and snacks to keep you going, and pop into the nearby rental shop should you need to hire water sports equipment.

Makiyama Observation Deck

The grey-faced buzzard, a migratory bird that travels to Irabu Island in the fall for overwintering, is a symbol of Irabu Island. The Makiyama Observation Deck was modeled after the grey-faced buzzard spreading its wings in flight. Since the observation deck is located at the highest point of the island, you can get a bird’s eye view of Miyako Island, Kurima Island, and Ikema Island, in addition to the entire Irabu Bridge. It is the perfect place to overlook the landscape of the island as a whole and take pictures of the Irabu Bridge from a perfect angle. The trail nearby is well maintained, so you can also explore the abundant nature.

Heisei no Mori Park

Various events on the island take place at Heisei no Mori Park near Sawada no Hama Beach. There are many sports facilities available, including the baseball field, athletic field, gymnasium, and a pool. While the long slide shaped like the grey-faced buzzard is the main attraction, there is also playground equipment for smaller children, making this park a place of recreation for families living on the island. With its extensive facilities, Heisei no Mori Park can also be used as a resting place during your trip.

Funausagi Banata

Funausagi banata refers to the cape to send off ships in the local dialect of Irabu Island. The name supposedly came from the fact that people used to send off those leaving the island long ago. There is an observation deck at the cape that was modeled after the grey-faced buzzard, with the tail of the bird serving as the steps and the stomach as the observation platform, which overlooks the spectacular view of the Miyako Blue full of coral reef. The grey-faced buzzard, appearing as though it is about to fly off, seems to represent the feeling of wishing those leaving the island a safe voyage.

Stunningly Translucent Waters

[Access: 3 Hour flight from Tokyo Narita Airport to Shimojijima Airport]

Shimoji Island is a small island running alongside the southwest side of Irabu Island. Because Miyako Island is connected to Irabu Island via the Irabu Bridge, with subsequent bridges connecting Irabu Island to Shimoji Island, it is possible to travel between the islands by car. The sea surrounding Shimoji Island is considered a mecca for cave diving. Most prominent on the Island is Shimoji Island Airport, which was built primarily for pilot training. Nakanoshima beach offers some great coral and marine life while the Shimoji Obi-Iwa rock is a unique sightseeing spot.

Island highlights include:

Nakanoshima Beach

Nakanoshima Beach is located on the east and west coasts of the island. An amazing snorkeling location, and while the beach is not ideal for sunbathing, it does have an incredible coral and fish life and is surrounded by a massive reef with a calm bay that is barely affected by the outer sea. The waves are quiet and the water is highly transparent. Since it is a natural beach with no lifeguards, you will need to be careful and watch over your own safety.

Tooriike Pond

Tooriike Pond is truly a beautiful, natural area and was named for the fact that two ponds of almost identical size were found connected underwater. It has been designated by the national government as both a scenic location and natural monument for its extremely rare formations. There is also an underwater cave associated with the pond, which has made it a highly regarded diving spot. A number of legends have been attributed to the mysterious nature of this place - including a legend of a mermaid inhabitant!

Obi-Iwa Belt Rock Monolith

Legend has it that this gigantic rock is supposed to have been delivered to the island via a tsunami that hit Miyako in 1771. A huge natural feature, up close it is difficult to comprehend how the ocean could move it. To locals, the stone has become a place of prayer for good fishing.

Runway 17 End

Shimoji Island is famous for its runway at Shimoji Island Airport, and the pier with guiding lights extending out to sea. At the northern end of the airport runway, a road wraps around the endge of the tarmac, allowing visitors a birds eye view of the runway. Because the runway extends over the sea, part of the runway was reclaimed, changing the flow of the drift causing sand to accumulate. The sand appears only at low tide, drawing much interest as a mystical beach. Visitors are advised to admire from a safe distance, but not to enter the area.

A Paradise of Abundant Nature & Migratory Birds

[Access: 45 minute flight from the main island of Okinawa to Miyako & by car across Ikema Bridge]

Ikema Island can be reached by car from Miyako Island by crossing the Ikema Bridge, which is 1,425 meters in total length. Ikema is a must-visit area for nature lovers. The entire island is a designated wildlife refuge, and the Ikema wetland is home to a large number of birds, making it perfect for birdwatching. Located just off the coast of Ikema is the Yabiji coral reef – the largest of it’s kind in all of Okinawa! The heart-shaped rock, which became famous from the novel on which a morning TV series was based, is now the most popular tourist destination on the island. Even today, the custom of the Utaki faith, honoring the gods of the island, remains well ingrained, drawing much attention to the island for its ethnology.

Island highlights include:

Funakusu Beach

This beautiful beach on Ikema island is a great snorkeling spot, and isn’t overrun by tourists. If you want a relaxed day at a remote beach, then grab your beach gear and head to the north of Ikema island. Toilets and parking are available

Ikizu beach

This is a small section of semi-secluded beaches near the famous “heart rock”. The sand is nice and white, and the beaches are small. There is parking available at the heart rock.

Ikema Marshland

The Ikema Marshland is the largest wetland in Okinawa and is a resting place for many migratory birds, such as ducks and herons, and it is also mentioned in the 500 Important Wetlands of Japan, compiled by the Ministry of the Environment. Since many birds visit throughout the year, bird watching huts are also set up, making the location ideal for bird watching.

Heart Rock

On the western side of Ikema, near by to Ikizu beach, there is a rock formation with a hole shaped like a nearly perfect heart. The “heart rock” as it is called, has become quite an attractions – especially for lovers.

Whale Rock

South of Funakusu beach is a famous rock-formation sticking out of the coastline. The formation looks like a whale, and has been named “whale rock” for that reason. It is a fun little side excursion from your beach day at Funakusu.

Yabiji -  "The Phantom Continent"

Located in the northern part of Miyako Island, Yabiji is the largest grouping of coral reefs in Japan. These 100 or so coral reefs are famous for being visible above the water line during the lowest tide of the year. Yabiji is also known for its diving and snorkeling spots, only a 30-minute boat ride from Ikema Island, which is also connected to Miyako Island by the Ikema Bridge. In 2013 Yabiji was designated as both a national scenic location and a natural treasure by the national government. It is called “the phantom continent” because it reveals itself on the sea surface only on days when the difference between high tide and low tide is significant, which occurs several times a year.

Ikema Drive-In

Ikema Drive-In is located on the right after crossing over the Ikema Bridge from Miyako Island. Among the several shops are outlets operated by the islanders where you will find local seafood and other products, some of which will only be available on Ikema Island, and you will also be able to engage directly with the locals. There is even a quiet secluded beach that stretches along the coast behind the line of shops. Some of the shops also provide observation decks and terraces for visitors to enjoy their meals with a view of the stunning scenery.

Away From the Hustle & Bustle: The Real Miyako Lifestyle

[Access: 45 minute flight from the main island of Okinawa to Miyako & by car across Kurima Bridge]

Kurima Island is a small island (with a circumference of onlyy 9 kilometers) located just of the coast of Miyako Island. Easily accessible by car across the Kurima Bridge, it is a remote island, with few inhabitants and visitors. There is one village on the east side of the island, while the remainder is mostly cultivated land. Despite being separated from the larger Miyako islands, more people are relocating to Kurima Island because of the convenience it offers, as well as fulfilling their dream to live on a remote island. In recent years, fashionable cafés and sundry shops have opened, and the island’s popularity amongst tourists is growing rapidly. Kurima island is the perfect place to experience the real, local Miyako lifestyle and enjoy the beautiful nature, the relaxed lifestyle, and one of Japans darkest night-skies.

Island highlights include:

Nagamahama - The Hidden - Beach

While the eastern coast of Kurima Island facing Miyako Island consists of a high cliff, there are several beaches on the west coast. Among them, Nagamahama Beach is known for its spectacular sunset view. Although the entrance to the beach is difficult to locate amongst all the vegetation to be found between the beach and village, the sense of excitement at arrival is like no other, and it feels like the perfect hideaway beach. There is nothing to block the scenery in front of you to the west, making it the best location for viewing the sunset over the horizon.

Ryugu Castle Observatory

The building with an orange roof at the eastern-end of the island is a three-story observatory modeled after the Ryugu Castle, as its name suggests. As a prominent observatory, it can be easily spotted by looking towards Kurima Island from Yonaha Maehama Beach on Miyako Island. The observatory offers an impressive panoramic view of the Kurima Bridge, and a great perspective on the changing gradient of the Miyako Blue as it extends across the sea to Yonaha Maehama Beach. It is also possible to see the entire island from this point, making it the first sightseeing location you would want to visit when you set foot on Kurima Island.

Tako Park Viewpoint

The first of three strangely shaped viewpoints on Kurima. “Tako” means octopus in Japanese, and sure enough, at this viewpoint you find a gigantic octopus along with a nice view of the sea and cliffs.

Banyan Tree Viewpoint

The second of the strangely shaped viewpoints on Kurima is the tree. It provides shadow and is a good picnic spot with a terrific view of Kurima bridge.

Where Nature, History, and Tradition Stand Still

[Access: 25 minutes by air from Miyako Airport to Tarama Airport]

Tarama Island, located midway between Ishigaki Island and Miyako Island, is a flat ovular shape and is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs. Vast sugar cane fields cover much of the flat terrain formed by coral reef, and the sweet smell of brown sugar drifts throughout the island during the harvest season. While there are many historical sites for tourists to see, one attraction is the Utaki (a sacred place in the Okinawan language) where a god of safe navigation is enshrined.The island is also known as the Island of Folk Performing Arts, because many traditional folk performances have been handed down from generation to generation. 

Island highlights include:

Just 9.5 kilometers to the north of Tarama Island is Minna Island, surrounded by coral reef and white sand it is a place where the nature remains unspoiled. A charter boat can be taken from Tarama Island to reach Minna Island. Even amongst local Okinawans, very few people have been to Minna Island, and thus some refer to it as the “secret island.” Although there was once a population of 265 islanders and an elementary/middle school, there are only four households living on the island today. With its highly transparent waters and abundance of sea turtles, Minna Island is a special destination.

The August Dance

The August Dance, designated by the Japanese government as an important intangible folk cultural asset, is the highlight of the harvest festival of Tarama Island. Festivities take place over three days starting on August 8th of the Okinawan lunar calendar, and is a tradition dating back some 400 years. It originated from the practice of reporting to the gods of Utaki the people’s sense of joy and appreciation over fulfilling harsh tax obligations and dancing before them to celebrate the sense of fulfillment, and to pray for another abundant harvest the following year. The current practice evolved from the Kumi Odori and other classical dances that were introduced during the Meiji era. Each year, people who have left the island return, and crowds of tourists and researchers show up to make it the most active season of the year on the island.

Yaeyama Tomidai Observatory

This watchtower is located due north of the Tarama Village Furusato Minzoku Gakushukan and northwest along the road from the Tsuchihara Ugan prayer site.

Star-Filled Skies

On Tarama Island, you can see the Southern Cross, which is only visible south of latitude 26 degrees north. Although the Southern Cross only appears just above the horizon, since Tarama Island is a flat island with no hills, the sky appears as a dome, allowing you to watch the stars as if you were in a planetarium. Also, because there are few lights in the village, you can get a clear view of the stars from virtually anywhere on the island, making it a must visit for those interested in astronomy.

An Island of the Gods in the Middle of the Miyako Blue

[Access: 15 minutes by express ferry from Shimajiri Port on Miyako Island]

Ogami Island is located approximately 15 minutes by boat to the north of Miyako Island, and when viewed from Miyako Island and Ikema Island, the island is seemingly floating in a sea of Miyako Blue . Ogami Island is also known as Uganjima or “the island of the gods” and has always been a spiritual place amongst the Miyako Islands. There are a number of sacred sites scattered across the island that have been highly regarded since ancient times, some of which are closed to the public, so it is recommended to find a guide to assist you around the island when sightseeing.

Island highlights include:

Observation Deck

Although it is a small island, when you look at the island from a distance, you can see that it is elevated towards the center like a mountain. The view from the observation deck at the highest point at the center of the island is magnificent. The observation deck will be off-limits during the Uyagan festivities, which take place five times a year between July and December, determined by the Okinawan lunar calendar. In addition to the observation deck, there will be other sites that will become off-limits during the festivities, so please check in advance and have a guide with you to assist your travels around the island.

The Oddly Shaped Rock

On the west coast of Ogami Island, you will find many strangely-shaped rocks known as “nocchi.” The waters surrounding Ogami Island face the sea where the currents are strong, this has caused parts of the rocks below the water’s surface to erode, resulting in mushroom shaped rocks that can be seen near the shore during low tide. The tide weakens enough in places with well developed coral reef, creating a sight rarely seen on the other islands of Miyako. The nocchi rocks continue to erode as we speak, slowly transforming by the moment.

Kakidako, the Island Specialty

One of the specialty products of Ogami Island is smoked octopus, known as kakidako. On the small isolated islands, the fishermen cannot go out for their catch during poor sea conditions, so the seafood caught each day has traditionally been smoked and preserved. However, due to improved transportation and the advancement of food preservation techniques, Kakidako is no longer as common as it once was. Nevertheless, you can find some at Opuyu Shokudo, the only diner on the island. The local octopus of Okinawa is quite tender, which prevents it from becoming too firm when smoked, giving it a nice texture that will have you asking for more.