Where Time Passes At Its Own Pace

The Yaeyama Islands include both the southernmost and westernmost inhabited islands of Japan. With their tropical atmosphere and laid back, rural lifestyle, the Yaeyama Islands are a popular getaway destination for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Japan's metropolises. This island paradise offers beaches, snorkeling, diving and relaxation. Of the Yaeyama Islands, Ishigaki Island is the most populated and serves as the region's transportation hub. Other islands include the jungle covered Iriomote Island and Taketomi Island, famous for its beautifully preserved, traditional Ryukyu village. Five additional islands comprise the rest of the island chain and offer beaches, snorkeling and diving.

Gateway to the Yaeyama Islands

[Access: 1 hour flight from the main island of Okinawa]

Ishigaki Island is rich in nature and musical tradition. As the main island of the Yaeyama region, Ishigaki offers an abundance of beaches at which snorkeling and diving can be enjoyed by all experience levels. If diving, be sure to check out the island's famed manta rays which congregate in large numbers around Manta Scramble near Kabira Bay. Ishigaki's rivers, while not quite as wild as those of nearby Iriomote, also offer a jungle like scenery and are nice to explore by kayak. Boasting the highest mountain in Okinawa Prefecture, as well as various hiking trails throughout the island's hilly interior, and stunning views over the vast blue ocean from the Tamatorizaki Observatory on the east side of the island, it's not difficult to understand how Ishigaki island is labelled the gateway to the Yaeyama Islands.

Island highlights include:

Yonehara Beach

This is one of Ishigaki's nicest beaches with some of the best snorkeling on the island. The beach is mostly covered in pieces of white coral, and its reef offers great snorkeling and diving. There are shower, restroom and changing facilities, and snorkeling equipment can be rented at the camping site nearby.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is a sandy beach located in a cove along the western side of Ishigaki's tail shaped northeastern peninsula. The beach is a short walk down from the parking lot and offers swimming and snorkeling that is good even during low tide. Most of the beach is surrounded by a net to protect swimmers from habu jellyfish. Next to the parking lot are picnic areas and paid showers and restrooms.

Kabira Bay

Emerald blue Kabira Bay (Kabirawan) is considered Ishigaki Island's most scenic view. An iconic landmark of the Yaeyama region, the landscape of the Bay's pure white sand beach, contrasted against the background of lucious green isands and clear blue skies is truely a sight to behold. Swimming, snorkeling and diving in the bay are not allowed, but glass bottom boat rides allow visitors a look into the bay's tropical underwater world. Kabira Bay, along with Iriomote, are the only two cultivation sites of black pearls in Japan.

Tamatorizaki Observation Point


This is an observation platform offering nice views of Cape Tamatori, Ibaruma Bay, Ishigaki's hilly northern peninsula and the emerald blue ocean with its coral reefs.

Hirakubozaki Lighthouse

Located at the northern edge of Ishigaki Island, a lighthouse offers a refreshing view of the clear blue ocean and small islands. Also visable from the lighthouse, a sandy beach awaits at the bottom of the sloping hills.

Ishigaki Yaima Village

Ishigaki Yaima Village is a collection of relocated Yaeyama Island-style residences from across the archipelago. There are a variety of activities at the village including a traditional song and dance performance which is held three times daily in one of the houses and reminiscent of the traditional form of entertainment. There is also a small mangrove area, a squirrel monkey park as well as a restaurant and a souvenir shop.

Japan’s Best Starry Skies

You can see 84 constellations out of a possible 88 constellations from Ishigaki Island. The starlit sky of the Yaeyama Islands, including Ishigaki Island, which is said to have a profile for a starry sky that clears world standards, is a candidate site to be recognized as the premier Starry Sky Conservation District of Japan.

An Unspoiled Island Landscape

[Access: Ishigaki Port to Taketomi Port is approximately 10 minutes by high-speed boat]

About 15 minutes from the Ishigaki Port Outlying Island Terminal by the regularly scheduled ferry, lies Taketomi; a raised coral isand, circular in shape, and surrounded by coral reefs. Part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, established in 1972, Taketomi Island is the site of a beautifully preserved, traditional Ryukyu village. Thanks to preservation efforts, the small village consists almost entirely of traditional style, one-storied houses, which are surrounded by stone walls, and covered with red tiled roofs and lion-like shisa statues to ward of evil spirits. White coral sand paved streets combine to form both the identity of the village, and a postcard-perfect sight to behold. Some of the village's houses serve as minshuku accommodations, while other traditional homes inside the village are used as restaurants and shops selling local food and crafts. Most visitors travel around the island via one of three transportaiton methods; on foot, by bicycle, or in a water buffalo cart. As Taketomi Island is fairly small, it is often visited as a day trip from Ishigaki.

Island highlights include:

Kondoi Beach

Kondoi Beach is a highlight of Taketomi Island; with emerald green water and a shallow, sandy floor. The large white sand beach that is perfect for enjoying the island sun, and the warm waters (although too shallow to swim in during low tide) are welcoming year round. Grassy, shaded picnic areas as well as restrooms, changing rooms, and rental facilities are also available.

Kaiji Beach

Together with Hoshizuna Beach on Iriomote Island, Kaiji Beach is known for its sand shaped like tiny stars (although it is actually made up of the skeletons of small one-celled organisms that live among the sea grass). Though a protected beach today, little star sand remains as it was bottled and sold as souvenirs in past decades. Swimming is prohibited due to strong tidal currents.

Nagominoto Tower

Nagomi Tower is an outlook offering a full view of Taketomi Island’s village, and an essential tourist vantage point. The 4.5 meter tall tower sits roughly in the center of the village. Form here, visitors have a view over most of the island. Combined with the hill on which it stands, the tower is about 10 meters above the surrounding houses. Below the tower is a grassy area, with a few shops and restaurants nearby. Visitors should be careful when ascending and descending the steep narrow steps.

Water Buffalo Cart Rides

30 minute water buffalo drawn cart tours of Taketomi Village allow visitors to travel around and take in the preserved, traditional streets of the village while a Japanese speaking guide talks about the island, sings songs and plays Okinawan music on their sanshin (Okinawan stringed instrument). Visitors often notice that the guides rarely offer guidance to the water buffalo who know their routes by heart.

The Village of Red Roof Tiles

Limestone walls decorated with hibiscus and bougainvillea, skirt wooden houses with their roofs made from traditional red tiles. It is a strongly nostalgic scene to behold. The townscape of Taketomi Island, which maintains its traditional appearance, has been designated by the national government as a preservation district for its important traditional buildings. Take a leisurely walk to explore the streets paved with white coral sand, or catch a ride on the water buffalo carriage while listening to songs played on the sanshin by an island guide. Just thinking about it brings on a sense of calm. The flow of time throughout the settlement that has remained unchanged over time will have visitors captivated.

Sunsets and Starry Night Skies


Nishi Pier, located on the west side of the island, offers a unique vantage point within the Yaeyama Islands. It is said that, when standing at the tip of the jetty that stretches above the sea, visitors can view the surrounds as if actually standing on the sea itself. Additionally, light reflections off the sea as the sun sets turn the blue sea orange and create the illusion of another pier over the sea. After sunset, the starry night skies shine vividly. 

Nishito Utaki

Taketomi has no less than 30 utaki; holy places for venerating important deities, usually marked off with low stone walls and Japanese signage. Nishito Utaki is dedicated to a 16th-century ruler of the Yaeyama Islands who was born on Taketomi-jima, and whose tomb lies behind the shrine. Utaki are there to be admired, and to pay respects - don't venture inside.

Kihouin Museum

History buffs will enjoy a stop by Kihouin Museum; an historical and cultural collection centre of Taketomi Island and was built directly next to Japan's southern-most temple. The centre has about 4000 items on display, including tools, art and crafts as well as historically valuable documents. A curator is on hand to discuss the history of the island.

An Island Jungle

[Access: Ishigaki Port – Ohara Port (Iriomote Island) 35 mins by high-speed boat, 40 minutes by ferry]

Iriomote Island is Okinawa's second largest island. Largely undeveloped, it is a treasure trove of nature with nearly 90 percent of its land covered by dense jungle and mangrove forests. Wide areas of the island are part of the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park, the southernmost of Japan's national parks and one of the country's most unique; with the sea, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and all kinds of living creatures bringing a distinct charm to Iriomote Island. The majority of the island's attractions are based around its abundant nature, including sea and river kayaking, fishing and sailing. Other activities include beaches, snorkeling and various hiking trails, the most challenging of which is a 20 kilometer path through the interior of the island (and should only be tackled by experienced and well prepared hikers). The island is also home to the Iriomote Yamaneko. Only found on Iriomote Island, it is a nocturnal, house cat sized animal and endangered species that is thought to number less than 100 individuals.

Island highlights include:

Hoshizuna no Hama

Hoshizuna no Hama means star sand beach, and is so named because the grains of sand found here are shaped like tiny stars. The sand is actually the skeletons of small one-celled organisms that live among the sea grass. This beach offers nice snorkeling and swimming, but is rather shallow during low tide. There are no public facilities at the beach besides the parking lot.

Tudumari no Hama

Tudumari no Hama is a quiet beach also known as Tsukigahama (Moon Beach) for its crescent shape. The wide beach is one of the best sunset spots on the island. The Urauchi River flows out into the sea on the southern end of Tudumari no Hama carrying with it lots of fine sand deposits which can be seen at the mouth of the river.

Barasu Island

Barasu Island is an island that lies just off the coast of Iriomote Island, It is unmarked on most maps and could be considered almost too small to be called an island at all. Covered in tiny fragments of coral, which stay sparkling above the surface of the ocean even at high tide. The island is especially beautiful at sunset. The surrounding area is a shallow reef, presenting the bright and highly-transparent ocean spreading out around them.  Typically, the island can only be reached by joining tours which allow for a short stay on the island before moving on to snorkeling in the waters nearby. The clear waters surrounding the island offer plenty of opportunities to see corals and marine life.

Fireflies and the Starry Night Sky

From the beginning of April to the beginning of June, the many small lights that sparkle on the waters of the jungle are that of the Yaeyama Hime fireflies, one of the unique species of the Yaeyama Islands. Look up at the sky to see the innumerable stars that go so well with the fireflies and you will suddenly find yourself at a natural planetarium. The scene of the beautiful starry sky and fireflies of Iriomote Island is a precious sight unique to this island. From the end of June to late July when the Barringtonia is in bloom, you will also be able to enjoy the fantastic scene of the Barringtonia petals covering the surface of the water while emitting a sweet scent.

Pinaisara Falls

With a vertical drop of about 55 meters, the Pinaisara Falls are Okinawa Prefecture's tallest waterfall. The falls can only be reached by a 30-40 minute kayak ride along a mangrove-lined river, followed by a 30-40 minute hike into the jungle. Half day tours lead to the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall where visitors can jump in to cool off as well as have lunch in the surrounding jungle. Full day hiking tours continue to the top of the waterfall and require a certain level of fitness.

Kura Falls


Nara Falls

The Nakara River, and “Nara Falls” at the upper Nakara River in Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park offer a sense of the mysterious within the realm of deep forest nature. The beautiful mangrove forest is along with the Nakara River, with the Nara Falls located upstream deep in the jungle.

Mayagusuku Falls

The most beautiful waterfall in Yaeyama; Mayagusuku Falls, meaning "castle of the wildcat" is located in the center of Iriomote Island. The huge waterfall is a fantastic reward for a 3 hour trek into the jungle. 

Omisha Road Park

Omisha Road Park is a small rest area with a parking lot along the side of the main road that has short walking paths. Visitors can follow the walking paths that lead into a mangrove forest on the one side and to a small river on the other side.

Yamaneko Museum (Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center)

This museum serves also as a refuge for Iriomote Yamaneko that are rescued after being injured by cars. The wildcats can only be viewed through a live video feed, while the rest of the museum has displays on the ecology of the Yamaneko and other animals found on the island. English explanations are provided throughout the museum.

The Iriomote Wildcat

The Iriomote wildcat, a nationally designated special natural treasure, is a native species that lives only on Iriomote Island. It is estimated that around 100 of them inhabit Iriomote Island, and they are said to be declining in number year by year. At the Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center in the eastern part of Iriomote Island, you can find rare images and informative materials on the Iriomote wildcat while also learning about other creatures inhabiting Iriomote Island.

Stunning and Uninterruped Views

[Access: Ishigaki Port – Kohama Port is about 25 minutes by high-speed ferry]

Kohama Island is a remote island in Okinawa and one of the best hidden resort islands in Japan. Located 30 minutes by regularly scheduled ferry from the Ishigaki Port Outlying Island Terminal,it is the center of Yaeyama Islands and the best place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Preserving the old-fashioned Okinawa landscape, Kohama Island is surrounded by the beautiful emerald-blue ocean and filled with bright green sugar cane fields spread out around the island. here, visitors can enjoy marine sports such as diving and snorkeling, or explore the Sugar Road - a single path running through a sugarcane field - or simply spend time relaxing at a slower pace in the village and bathing in the sun. This is the perfect island for those looking to enjoy island time without any commitments.

Island highlights include:

Haimurubushi Beach

Located within tthe Haimurubushi Resort Hotel, this beach offers both a relaxing atmosphere and a wide selection of marine activities. Reservations can be made at the beach activities counter located inside of the hotel (same day reservations are available) Options include: Jetskis, banana boats, sea sliders, and tube riding. Snorkeling and diving tours can be arranged for overnight guests and for those who prefer to stay on land and relax, there is a beachside cafe. 

Mount Ufudaki

The only mountain on Kohama Island is located in the center of the island, and at 99m (324ft) above sea level, you can see 360° across the ocean from the observation tower. The highest point on the island, and you can get a panoramic view of all the Yaeyama Islands, with Ishigaki, Taketomi, Iriomote, Hatoma Islands all visible on a sunny day. Beyond the green forest of Kohama Island lies the blue sea with its rich color gradations spreading out to the Yaeyama Islands. The beautiful scenery from the observation deck certainly makes for a relaxing time.

Uminchu Park

Uminchu Park is located on the Western most tip of Kohama Island. Well-known for its Manta Ray shaped observation deck, the park is located on the Kubazaki fishing port side, and includes facilities such as bathrooms, which makes it a great place to take a break during a cycling trip.

Sugar Road

Kohama Island is the setting for “Churasan,” a drama series on Jpaan's National Broadcasting Channel, NHK. The Sugar Road, straight road, with sugarcane fields on both sides of the road, has become famous due to being featured on this program with the stunning scenery of sugar cane fields as far as the eye can see mesmerizing TV viewers and visitors alike. Travellers will also often see goats freely roaming on the road.

Where The Southern Cross Shines Over The Clear Blue Sea

[Access: Ishigaki Port – Hateruma Port approximately 60 minutes by high-speed ferry]

The southernmost inhabited island of Japan, Hateruma Island has less than 500 residents and is located approximately 60-80 minutes by express ferry from the Ishigaki Port Outlying Island Terminal. A popular day trip from Ishigaki, the small island has a circumference of almost 13 kilometers and takes less than two hours to circle by bicycle. There are few tourist attractions on the island, and the majority of the tourists head straight to the beautiful Nishihama Beach, which is within walking distance from the ferry terminal. Comprising crytal clear waters and powdery white sands, as with many of Okinawa’s best beaches there is a fringing coral reef so don’t forget to bring your snorkel. Hateruma Island is also the island that is closest to the Southern Cross among the Yaeyama Islands, and here visitors can experience the impressive star scape of the night sky.

Island highlights include:

Nishihama Beach

This remote slice of tropical paradise consistently tops polls as one of Japan’s best beaches. The most famous tourist attraction on Hateruma Island, visitors can swim in the beautiful “Hateruma Blue” (actually crystal clear waters, azure in colour). Powdery white sands make for a great place to soak up the sun and, as with many of Okinawa’s best beaches, there is a fringing coral reef perfect for snorkelling (and a great place to glimpse the areas common sea turtle visitors!). There are showers, toilets and valuables lockers on the beach, and there is also a snorkeling goods rental shop near the beach. However, there is no life guard. Additionally, there are no vending machines or shops on the beach, so food and drink need to be prepared.

Sokonatameike Observatory Tower 

Built in the Ryukyu kingdom era, it was from here that look-outs would scan the southern seas for signs of ships and alert observers on nearby Iriomote of their presence. This is hill made of rocks is protected as a cultural property of Japan.

Monument of The Southernmost Part of Japan

This is a popular photography spot, with a monument highlighting in Japanese, “the southernmost part of Japan”, making it a perfect location for visitors to take a commemorative photo. Approximately 25 minutes from the port by car, it is highly recommended as a sightseeing destination during a trip to Hateruma Island.

Cape Takanazaki

At Cape Takanazaki, the precipitous cliffs spanning the island offer powerful scenes of big waves crashing against the cliffs. Visitors here will see a completely different side of the sea from the calm waters at Nishihama Beach. The blue water clashing against the cliffs is an exhilarating sight to behold. prime views can only be accessed by walking on the raised coral rocks to get close to the cliffs. It is advised to wear closed in shoes with good grip. Be wary also of strong winds, which can make it extremely dangerous to look at the cliffs directly below.

Starry Night Observatory

As the most southerly point of the Yaeyamas and indeed Japan, this is one of the best spots to be able to observe the Southern cross (seen best late April to mid June). From the astronomical observation tower at the southern tip of the island, visitors can star gaze from one of the best observation points in the world through the 20mm refracting telescope. There are also occasional planetarium shows.


A festival held on the island on the date of the Bon festival according to the old calendar (July 14) which memorializes people's ancestors and gives thanks for both safety and bountiful harvests. Mushama is derived from the local word mussaha, meaning funny or interesting. During the festival, drum, pole, kyogen farce, and traditional dance performances are held to entertain attendees. Locals who have moved away from the island also return for the festival, and Hateruma becomes more lively than at any other time of the year.

The Westernmost Island in Japan

[Access: Naha airport - Yonaguni airport 90 min Flight or Ishigaki airport - Yonaguni airport 30 min Flight]

Yonaguni Island is the westernmost island of Japan and boasts a culture that is unlike any other across the Yaeyama region. The small island has a circumference of about 30 kilometers and a population of under 2000 people. The island is well-known for scuba diving, with the appearance of migrating hammerhead sharks between late November and May being a feature attraction. The unique Yonaguni Monument; underwater stone formations which are geometrically so perfectly shaped that there is a debate to whether they are natural or man-made, is also a must see sight. On land, Yonaguni is well as for some of its native fauna; the Atlas moth and, most predominately, the Yonaguni horse, a native Japanese and protected breed allowed to roam freely in the three pastures near the villages.

Island highlights include:

Westernmost Point and Irizaki Lighthouse

The western cape of Yonaguni and some stones in the water off the cape make up Japan's westernmost point. As such, it is also the last place in the country to see the sunset. Irizaki Lighthouse and a monument celebrating the extreme point can be found at the cape. Taiwan can be seen just over 100 kilometers across the sea in the distance when visibility is good.

Agarizaki Lighthouse

The Agarizaki Lighthouse stands at the opposite end of the island, at the eastern cape of Yonaguni. It is surrounded by spectacular, high sea cliffs that make up the coastline. Iriomote Island can be seen in the distance when visibility is good. The pony-sized, native Yonaguni horses are often seen roaming the pastures around the Agarizaki Lighthouse.

Gunkan and Tachigami Rocks

The coast southeast of Yonaguni's western cape continues to offer a spectacular scenery with rugged terrain, high sea cliffs and numerous notable rock formations. Of interest are the Gunkan-iwa, a stout and imposing rock named after a warship, and Tategami-iwa, a tall candle-shaped rock. There are multiple lookout points along the road.

Tindabana Viewpoint

Tindabana is rock outcrop that towers about 85 meters above the village of Sonai. A lookout point in the outcrop offers panoramic views of the village, the nearby Nanta Beach and the East China Sea. The viewpoint is reached via a 200 meter long walking trail along the cliff from the nearest parking lot.

Dr. Koto Clinic

The Dr. Koto Clinic served as the location setting for a highly popular television drama of the same name that ran from 2003 to 2006. The small building stands at the edge of the beach on the eastern end of Higawa village. Visitors can see props and material used in the drama.

Yonaguni Monument


A group of megaliths lying on the seabed of Yonaguni Island have a total length of approximately 100 meters, a width of approximately 60 meters, and a height of approximately 25 meters. How the mysterious topography of steps, stone pillars, and other structures that appear to be man made were formed remains under investigation. While there has been a map created with names assigned to each spot, there are supposedly other unknown features as well. Were they naturally formed or built by hand? On Yonaguni Island, you can enjoy this mysterious underwater landscape by going on a diving tour or taking a tour on an underwater sightseeing boat.

AKA; Heart Island

[Access: Ishigaki Port – Kuroshima Port 25 minutes by high speed boat, 35 minutes by ferry]

Also known as Heart Island, due to its shape, Kuroshima Island, is a charming, sparsely populated cattle ranch island located about 19km from Ishigaki Island. 12km in perimeter, Kuroshima is a flat coral island surrounded by coral reef and ideal for diving and snorkeling. A well-known nesting ground for sea turtles, Kuroshima is also famous for the fact that there are more cows than islanders! Cows roam leisurely in the meadows that spread across the island and visitors can not help but invoke a sense of relaxation and a slower pace as time seems to pass by more slowly. Kuroshima's entirely flat topography, makes it perfect for renting a bicyle and cycling around to the numerous sightseeing spots dotted about the island.

Island highlights include:

Nakamoto Coast

Located on the west coast of Kuroshima, is well worth a visit. Impressive corals can be seen close to a small Shinto Shrine at low tide. Visitors can reach the Nakamoto Coast that stretches on the west side of the island in roughly 10 minutes by bicycle from the Kuroshima Port. At low tide, the inside of the coral reef turns into what appears to be a natural pool, allowing you to swim comfortably, and it is also a famous spot for snorkeling and diving.

Iko Pier

A great place to stop on a bike ride around the island, Iko Pier offers great sea views, and is the best vantage point at night to catch a glimpse of the region's spectacular starry nights!

Kuroshima Cows

Cattle raising is a major economic activity and a yearly "cow festival" is held. Sometimes the island is marketed as "Island of Cows" as well, as there are more cows than inhabitants living on it (aprroximately 13 times the human population of the island, in fact!) The Cow Festival takes place on the last Sunday of February each year. This is the largest event held on Kuroshima Island, with many people traveling to the island every year looking forward to games and programs unique to the cattle island, a highlight being the lottery to win a cow.


An old tower built of dark coral stones close to the Visitors' Center. During the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the top of the tower was the highest point of the whole island, and it was used to observe the ships going to and from Ishigaki and to send fire signals to the neighbouring island.

Kuroshima Observatory

In the middle of Kuroshima there is a tower offering a scenic view of the whole island.

Sea Turtle Island

Kuroshima Island is the only island in Japan where it has been confirmed that all three species of sea turtles that lay eggs in Japan (the loggerhead turtle, green turtle, and hawksbill turtle) all go to lay eggs. You can learn about the ecology of sea turtles in detail at the Kuroshima Island Research Station on the island. The sea turtles come ashore at night to lay eggs from May to August of each year on the white sandy beach of Nishi no Hama, which is about five minutes from the Kuroshima Port by bicycle.


Azure Sea As Far As The Eye Can See

[Access: Ishigaki Port – Hatoma by high-speed boat (50 minutes) or ferry (55 minutes]

Pronounced locally as "Patouma" Hatoma Island lies to the north of Iriomote Island and, with a population of about fifty people, and has been described as "tranquility itself." Surrounded by azure sea, the island is known as the birthplace of “Hatomabushi,” one of the well-known Yaeyama folk songs that lauds the splendor of the scenery when viewed from the hills of Hatoma Forest. The lighthouse in the center of the island affords fine views across the island over to Iriomote, and the sea to the north. Maenohama Beach has fine white sand and gently slopes down into the sea and there is an annual music festival in Golden Week which attracts many visitors to this otherwise very tranquil spot. While the island is famous in Japan for being the location of a popular TV series, Ruri no Shima (Azure Island), and it has yet to be developed for tourism, leaving the island with an unspoiled landscape.

Island highlights include:

Maenohama Beach

While small in size, the island of Hatoma offers plenty of beautiful beaches. relax and enjoy Maehama beach, which is conveniently located near the port. The beach has fine white sand that gently slopes down into the sea. It is surrounded by corals, and is home to many sub tropical fish and sea life.

Lighthouse and sea views

There is a beacon (hibanmori) constructed by the royal government of the Ryukyu Kingdom as a place to light a beacon fire for the safety of vessels traveling through the area. It was built up on stonework at the highest point of the island (33.8metres above sea level). Standing alone in the middle of Hatoma Forest is, a beautiful white lighthouse on top of the hill on the island. From both of these viewpoints you can look out across the azure sea to the other nearby islands, and marvel at the different colors of the sea. 

Hatoma Forest

Located near the center of Hatoma Island are the hills of Hatoma Forest, which at approximately 34 meters above sea level are the highest point, and the island’s best scenic spot. The beauty of the view is sung in a passage of the folk song “Hatomabushi,” an iconic song of the Yaeyama Islands, and is also a scenic spot that is highly recommended to visit during your trip to Hatoma Island.

Hatoma Island Music Festival

The Hatoma Island Music Festival takes place on May 3rd of each year, and many musicians and spectators visit the island from within Okinawa Prefecture and beyond. Usually, you can only hear the waves and sound of wind rustling through the trees on this quiet island, but on festival day you are surrounded by singing and the sound of sanshin echoing across the island with a sense of passion. The music festival first started in the garden of a private residence, but has now evolved into the largest event on the island, drawing crowds of visitors to the island each year.

Water Buffalo Crossing

[Access: Iriomote – Yubu *Water buffalo-drawn carriage 15 minutes]

Yubu Island was formed by sediment deposited by sea currents as a result of sand flowing from the Yonara River on Iriomote Island. Located about 500 meters from the east coast of Iriomote Island, Yubu Island is a small island of neighborhood less than 2 km, and the whole island is the subtropical botanical garden where besides southern flowers, wild animals such as wild boars, goats and buffalos can be seen. It takes about 20 minutes on the fixed-route bus to the water buffalo carriage station from the Ohara Port on Iriomote Island. Taking a leisurely ride on the carriage across the sea and back is the popular, making the journey half the thrill of travelling to scenic Yubu Island.

Island highlights include:

Manta Ray Beach

A beautiful beach with 360 degree views. Relax at "Yubu Island Chaya" - a quaint cafe overlooking the sea where visitors can sit and take in the view and serenity of the island while enjoying coffee and gelato. Manta Ray Beach is named for the pathway that runs between Yubu and Kohama Islands through which manta rays travel.  

Water Buffalo Crossing

The distance between Iriomote Island and Yubu Island is only 400 meters. The water buffalo move slowly over the shallow waters that can also be crossed by foot. Depending on the weather, and the mood of the water buffalo, it usually takes 15 minutes each way. To the soundtrack of songs played on the sanshin by the driver, the water buffalo led carriages proceed slowly toward the island throughout the day. 

The Butterfly Garden

Within the botanical garden is a butterfly garden where visitors can find rare butterflies throughout the year, including the tree nymph butterfly, known to be the largest in Japan. Watching butterflies fluttering about freely in the lush vegetation indeed gives the sense of a subtropical garden, and it is a popular place to visit when on the island. 

Subtropical Botanical Paradise

As a result of the typhoon of 1969, most of the residents on Yubu Island resettled on Iriomote Island, and only two locals - Mr. and Mrs. Masaharu Iriomote remained. They planted palm trees while dreaming of re-creating the tropical paradise. There are now over 40,000 palm trees that have been planted by the couple who have succeeded in their goal of rebuilding the island. The vividness of bougainvillea, which come into season between late autumn and spring, is synonymous with the tropical scene. 

Uninhabited Tropical Paradise

[Access: Tours and ferryboats are generally available from surrounding islands]

Located 2 kilometers to the northeast of Kohama Island, with a circumference of roughly 2.5 kilometers, Kayama Island is an uninhabited sitting only 19 meters above sea level. While small it is special because it offers the kind of enjoyment that you would only be able to experience on a deserted island. Have the blue sea with coral reef all to yourself on a private beach and snorkel with schools of colorful tropical fish. You can also explore the interior of the island while searching for wild rabbits, or why not pitch a tent and look up at the starry night sky on the uninhabited island as you nestle into your sleeping bag. Since there is no regularly scheduled liner service, you will need to join a tour sponsored by a travel agency to get to Kayama Island. You can spend your time as you please. That’s what Kayama Island is all about.

Island highlights include:

Wild Rabbits

Around 500 wild rabbits live on Kayama Island. If you happen to encounter a rabbit willing to accept food from you, be sure to snap a photo with the blue sea in the background to capture the moment. Your experience interacting with the rabbits on Kayama Island will surely remain a treasured memory of time spent on this island of unspoiled nature like none of the other outlying islands.


For an experience only available on an island lacking permanent residents, indulge in what an uninhabited island has to offer with the Hassle-Free Camping Tour on a Deserted Island where you get to spend the night on Kayama Island. There is a small but well-equipped camping facility on Kayama Island that is open for camping during the summer season (April – September). After enjoying marine leisure in the blue sea and spending time on the white sandy beaches during the day, you can unwind in the evening with the starry night sky watching over you.


Although it has no regularly scheduled ferry service, the sea surrounding Kayama Island has around 400 species of coral and tropical fish making it a great snorkeling spot. In the crystal clear blue sea, the scene of colorful fish living in the coral reef and swimming about resembles flowers blooming from within the coral. Certainly, one of the charms of this island is experiencing the breathtaking sensation of being surrounded by colorful tropical fish in the sea full of life.

The Mystical Twin Islands

[Access: Only available via arranged tour]

The Aragusuku Islands are also known as the “Panari (Separated) Islands” due to the fact that they actualy comprise of two islands set apart from one another. The Aragusuku Islands, where much of the old way of life is preserved to this day, are considered mystical islands and, while they offer great snorkelling opportunites, many places in and around the islands are closed to visitors.

Island highlights include:


Koijigahama has historically been known as romantic "date spot" since as far back as the dynastic era of Ryukyu.  It is rumoured that if visitors sit a while by the quiet cove, they may hear the whispering of lovers who once frequented here. 

Panari Islands (Separated Islands)

The Aragusuku Islands are actually comprised of two islands located about 400 meters apart; Kamiji and Shimoji Island. At low tide, the waters become shallow enough to cross on foot. Visitors to the area can enjoy some of the best snorkeling spots, as well as the Yaeyama region's famous unspoiled nature.