There is a little slice of paradise within Japan, just a short ferry ride from the Ishigaki Port. It’s as if a little piece of history has been preserved in this island paradise, making for a unique opportunity to experience a little slice of Japanese history. This paradise is also known as Okinawa’s Taketomi Island.
Taketomi Island is so rare, it was designated by the government as a conservation area. Therefore, it’ll continue to be protected so the little piece of paradise remains intact and visitors can experience this tropical island that never disappoints.
Okinawa Prefecture, where Taketomi Islands is located, has a long and somewhat controversial history. Having this little tropical paradise to commemorate the positive traditional memories of the Prefecture is something special.
There are many things to explore on Taketomi Island, as well as events to enjoy and breathtaking views to take in. It’s worth the ferry ride for anyone visiting Japan to explore this isolated oasis that truly represents just how multifaceted Japan is.
Taking The Ferry
Taking a ferry onto the island is the only way to get there. Thankfully, the ferry runs quite often to get you to and from the island. The ferry trip is also pretty short as well; about ten minutes from the Ishigaki Island station.
Since the island can be enjoyed within a day, you can easily grab a ferry back to the main island.
There are some guest houses and a small ryokan on the island that you can stay at if you choose. You can enjoy a meal at your guesthouse as the day turns into the evening before watching one of Taketomi’s famous sunsets.
If visiting Ishigaki City or at least planning to stay in the area, Taketomi Island is a must for a day trip. It’s also the biggest island in the Okinawa area. It’s also one of the best areas to get around Japan from with various methods of travel.
The city also has a variety of hotels to stay at if Taketomi Island is one of your must-see destinations on your trip to Japan. There are also shops and restaurants to explore around the city.
The Red Roof Tile Village
One of the most distinct and memorable sights to see on Taketomi Island are the Okinawan style homes with unique red tiles on their roofs. Around the homes with red roofs, there are also limestone walls adorned with flowers, including hibiscus and bougainvilleas.
The streets are also lined with sparkling white coral sand that contrasts the greenery and colorful flowers very intensely.
You can take a stroll through the sand streets and take in the traditional Taketomi houses, or take a ride on a water buffalo drawn cart throughout the township. Accompanying you on the water buffalo ride is a guide who will play a traditional Japanese guitar or a Sanshin.
None of the buildings or structures on the island are modern designs, except for the ferry port. Even if new buildings or homes are constructed on the island, they are required to follow traditional building practices.
This is part of the conservation efforts on the island.
A Small But Friendly Population
There are only about 350 people who live permanently on Taketomi Island. They are friendly people, so long as their land is respected. The area is a hallmark of Ryukyu culture.
The Ryukyuan population is indigenous to Okinawa, so having their cultural heritage live on the island is very important and must be respected.
Part of what helps sustain such a remote island as Taketomi is the tourism income it makes from people taking tours and taking day trips to the island from nearby Ishigaki and Okinawa.
There are minimal businesses on the island, such as one small grocery store and a couple of restaurants that are usually only open during the day.
The Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park
Taketomi Island is just one part of the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, which is an expansive area that is protected by the government. The national park also includes Iriomote Island, Kohama Island, and Kuro Island.
The park was officially recognized in 1972 and also includes Ishigaki Island as of 2007.
In order to help keep the integrity of the islands, there are rules in place in order to ensure nothing destroys what is still standing. This way, history is frozen in time, so to speak.
The Tanadui Festival
If you are in Japan when the Tanadui Festival is taking place on Taketomi Island, it’s the perfect time to go. This is the biggest festival that happens on Taketomi Island, and for many reasons.
The festival spans over 10 days with something interesting happening on each day. For example, on the 7th and 8th day of the festival, there is a lot of entertainment to take in. There are traditional dances to view and participate in and plays and performances to watch as well.
The importance of this festival has been designated by the government, and it celebrates the importance of sowing seeds for a bountiful food harvest. Islanders who celebrate the festival will also pray to their gods or kami to help support the growth of crops for the year.
Star Sand Beach
The Star Sand Beach is also known as the Kaiji Beach and is one of the few beaches that you can visit on Taketomi Island. It’s filled with the remains of shells that line the water like sand, and they glisten very beautifully in the sun. You can purchase some of them while on the island to take home with you.
While you can’t swim in the ocean at certain times, you can take in the scenery under the shade of nearby trees. If you are looking for more of a private experience, you can go to the second Star Sand Beach, also known as Alyaruhama Beach.
As if two beaches weren’t enough, there is the pristine Kondoi beach which is actually more suitable for swimming. There are also coral reefs around, so if you’re into snorkeling, this is the perfect place to enjoy the undersea life.
There is a dive shop close by that allows you to rent all the equipment you need if you want to take a deeper dive. It’s also the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Evenings On The Island
Spending an evening on the island is a must for some of the best sunsets and starry nights. The perfect place to take in the view is from the Nishi Pier.
There’s a part of the pier that juts out above the water to make it feel as though you are standing right above the sea.
The sunset is a gorgeous sight to see, as the dimming sun reflects a beautiful orange color off of the sparkling sea. There are also a lot of stars that light up the sky once the sun is down, which is a sight not many in the city get to see because of the ever present light polution.
Throughout the island, there are quite a few places that are considered sacred. These places are marked by stones, and it is expected that people stay out or off of those areas.
The religious beliefs of the people of Taketomi Island are very serious to them, and any disrespect of those beliefs will mean being asked to leave.
There are many beliefs held dear by the people who live on Taketomi Island. Many of them have their roofs decorated with Shisa guardians, which are statues that help ward off evil spirits.
The Nagominoto Tower used to offer a unique glimpse around the entire Taketomi Island, as it’s located right in the middle of the island. However, it’s not in the best state right now, so you cannot climb up it until its fully restored.
However, it’s still an interesting landmark on the island to see. There are also some restaurants and shops near the tower to enjoy while taking a view of the island from the ground.
There are plenty of ways to get around on the island. When you arrive at the port after getting off of the ferry, you can actually walk to the village in about fifteen minutes. There are also vehicles that can take you from the port to the town or to the beach.
The water buffalo carriage can also take you where you need to go, and you can also rent a bicycle. You can actually take a water buffalo tour throughout the entire village that takes about a half-hour.
There are no cars on the island, but there are none needed. No matter where your destination is on the island, you can easily get there by walking, if not by a bike or a water buffalo cart.