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Iriomote Island: A Weekend in Paradise

Iriomote island is the largest of the Yaeyama islands in Okinawa, but it does not have its own airport. That is one of the reasons it is so beautifully untouched, tranquil and relaxing. I visited this paradise for the whole weekend! Of course, it was rather tiring to get there: at first we went to Ishigaki by plane, and then to the ferry terminal by bus, took a ferry, and a minibus to finally reach our hotel.


While staying at the island, I had hoped to see the famous Mountain Cat – Iriomote yamaneko. Just as my husband expected, I didn’t meet one. He told me I watched too much Azumanga Daioh (あ ずまんが大王). In the anime, a group of girls go to Okinawa on a class trip and one of them, Sakaki, meets a kitten of the Iriomote Mountain Cat. His mother had been run over by a car, so Sakaki adopted the kitten and called it Maya. It was super cute! You should definitely watch Episode 21 of the anime or read Volume 4 of the manga.

OK, let me go on with what I expected to see but didn’t. On Saturday we went snorkeling near the beautiful, African-style mangrove forest (Iriomote is almost completely covered with mangrove swamps and jungles). Our instructor said we might see a Hawksbill turtle. Because of the big sea turtles which inhabit the island, mainly around the coral reefs, Iriomote is sometimes called the Japanese Galapagos Island.


But hey, we saw lots of colorful fish and coral reefs! It was the most incredible sight I’ve seen since my trip to Egypt. I think that the coral reefs and white beaches in Iriomote are the best in the world!

As Iriomote is also famous for its pineapples and the Star sand beach (Hoshizuna-no-hama), on Sunday we rented a pair of bicycles to go sightseeing.


The pineapple field was vast and full of insects! Don’t go in to get a close-up view of the fruit.

As for the beach, take water-proof beach sandals, because the most interesting sea inhabitants are in the water. Can you spot the star-shaped grain of sand in this photo?



(Iriomote island (西表島))
Location: 460 km south west of the main Okinawan island. 240 km east of Taipei, Taiwan.
Access 1: 40 minute boat ride from Ishigaki island (Ishigaki can be reached by plane)
Distance to airport: 40 km from Ishigaki Airport
Religious info:
Menu Language: Japanese
Credit cards:

By Olga Kaneda

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