Tiny even by Yaeyaman standards, Taketomi (population under 300, area 5.4 km²) gets a disproportionate number of visitors because of its convenient location just off Ishigaki and, above all, its carefully preserved Ryūkyū village (集落 shūraku). Many houses in the village have red clay roofs with guardian shisa lions, a low surrounding wall of volcanic stone and extensive flower beds (particularly pretty in spring). Many roads are unpaved lanes of white sand and ambling water buffalo pull tourist-packed carts through town.
Note that the administrative area of Taketomi Town (竹富町 Taketomi-chō) covers not just Taketomi Island, but also the neighboring far larger island of Iriomote and in fact all of the Yaeyamas except Ishigaki and Yonaguni. An address with "Taketomi" in it may thus be located elsewhere in the archipelago!
Taketomi has no less than 30 utaki (御嶽), or holy places for venerating the gods, usually marked off with low stone walls and Japanese signage. Don't venture inside.
The only way to get to the island is by boat. Both Anei Kankō and Yaeyama Kankō Ferry run fast boats from Ishigaki to the dock on the east side of Taketomi every 30 minutes from 7:30AM to 5:30PM daily. The trip takes just 10 minutes and costs ¥580/1,100 one-way/return, there is little if anything to distinguish the two operators but Yaeyama has a few more services daily.
The very dedicated penny-pincher may opt for the Yaeyama Kanko slow cargo boat instead, which takes 30 minutes for the trip and costs ¥430, a savings of a whopping ¥150. The only problem is that the slow boat runs only twice per week, at time of writing on Monday and Thursday at 2:10PM, so this is not a very practical alternative.
By water buffalo
The touristy way to see Taketomi is from cart pulled by a water buffalo (水牛車 suigyūsha), complete with guide telling folk stories (in Japanese) and twanging on a sanshin while at it. 30-minute tours start from ¥1200, including port transfers.
Taketomijima Kōtsū minibuses ferry passengers from the dock to the village for ¥200 and to the beach for ¥300, and can also arrange pickups for the same price (advance booking required). Guided minibus tours are also popular, but available in Japanese only.
Probably the best way to get around is on bicycle. Prices are standardized at a rather steep ¥300/1500 for one hour/full day, the bike rental companies hang out at the dock and will transfer you for free. The money conscious traveller may want to rent the bicycle in Ishigaki and take it in the ferry, though the gain is not much since the ferry fee is at least an additional ¥400 each way.
Motorbikes are also available: a 50cc bike costs ¥800/4000 for one hour/full day, while a 70cc bike is ¥1000/5000.
The island can be covered on foot, but there's not much to see on the slogs between the dock, the village and the beaches (about 1 km each) and it can be pretty sweaty work in the summer when there is no shade.
If you want to tour the island on foot, ask for a map at the information stand in the ferry terminal. They lend English maps with a 6km/2hr "nature educational" route that covers all the highlights. Don't forget to return the map before boarding the ferry at the end of your tour.
Start your tour by dropping into the visitor center right next to the dock, which can give you a free rough map or sell you a better one (¥200). Most sights in the village are of fairly minor interest and it's generally more rewarding to amble around randomly, popping into little village shops and cafes.
Handicraft shops litter the streets of Taketomi. Popular buys include the local minsā, which is very expensive if hand-weaved and hand-dyed with indigo, and star sand, more affordable at around ¥30 per teaspoonful.
Much of the southern part of the island is taken up by a farm that cultivates kuruma-ebi (車えび), a type of shrimp, so no prizes for guessing what you are likely to find in any meal you order.
Taketomi has only one bar, Great Beats, which is on the edge of town closest to Aiyaruhama beach, a 10 minute walk from the beach. The bar features an extensive music collection, occasional live music, hand drums, and Orion beer on tap.
The island has a surprisingly large selection of minshuku, most all of which charge a uniform ¥5500 for a bed and two meals. Most visitors choose to day-trip from Ishigaki instead, but it might be worth considering spending the night here to experience the island without the tour group crowds.
The only way out of this island is by ferry back to Ishigaki.