YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Difference between revisions of "Yaeyama Islands"

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search
Yaeyama Islands

Default Banner.jpg

m (Islands)
(Talk: +Yonaguni phrasebook)
Line 31: Line 31:
An indigenous ideographical writing system known as ''kaidā'' was once employed on [[Taketomi]] and [[Yonaguni]], but is now primarily found on T-shirts in souvenir shops.
An indigenous ideographical writing system known as ''kaidā'' was once employed on [[Taketomi]] and [[Yonaguni]], but is now primarily found on T-shirts in souvenir shops.
See also: [[Yonaguni phrasebook]]
==Get in==
==Get in==

Revision as of 07:37, 8 June 2005

Kabira Bay, Ishigaki

The Yaeyama Islands (八重山諸島 Yaeyama-shotō) are the westernmost part of Okinawa, Japan.


Map of the Yaeyama Islands
  • Aragusuku — population 7
  • Hatoma — the main attraction here is that there are no attractions
  • Hateruma — the southernmost inhabited point of Japan
  • Ishigaki — the largest town and transport hub of the islands
  • Iriomote — covered in mangrove swamps and jungles inhabited by the elusive Iriomote wild cat
  • Kohama — tiny island that houses one swanky resort
  • Kuro — with more cows than humans
  • Taketomi — small island off Ishigaki, known for a carefully restored Ryukyu village
  • Yonaguni — the westernmost point of Japan, famous for its mysterious underwater stone structures


The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest and most southwestern part of Japan, closer to Taiwan than Okinawa Island, much less the mainland.


Handy Yaeyaman glossary
Some words you may run into:

  • やいま yaima — Yaeyama
  • おーりとーり ōritōri — welcome
  • くよーナーら kuyōnāra — hello
  • にーふぁいゆー nīfaiyū — thank you
  • まーさん māsan — delicious

Note that spellings and pronunciations vary not just from island to island, but according to the speaker's preferred rendering in kana.

Due to their isolation the Yaeyama Islands are a linguist's dream. While standard Japanese is spoken everywhere and the main Okinawan language is also well understood, there is a unique Yaeyaman language (yaimamunii) as well. Ishigaki, Iriomote and Taketomi all have their own dialects of this, and Yonaguni's is so distinct that it's usually considered its own language.

An indigenous ideographical writing system known as kaidā was once employed on Taketomi and Yonaguni, but is now primarily found on T-shirts in souvenir shops.

See also: Yonaguni phrasebook

Get in

The Yaeyama Islands are a long way from anywhere.

By plane

The main airport of the islands is Ishigaki. There are frequent connections to Naha and Miyako and limited direct services to major Japanese cities like Tokyo, but no scheduled international services.

By boat

A weekly ferry travels from Kaohsiung (Taiwan) to Ishigaki and onward to mainland Japan as far as Nagoya. There are also 4 services per week from Naha and Miyako to Ishigaki.

Get around

By plane

Japan Transocean Air and Ryukyu Air Commuter have limited flights (1-2 services daily) from Ishigaki to Yonaguni and Terama.

By boat

There are frequent services from Ishigaki to Taketomi (just 10 minutes) and Iriomote (40 minutes). Infrequent boats connect to the other islands. The major operators are Anei Kankō and Yaeyama Kankō Ferry.


Kondoi Beach, Taketomi

The Yaeyama Islands are about as off the beaten track as it gets in Japan, but each has its own distinct character. Ishigaki has some spectacular beaches and Iriomote is the only island in all Japan with authentic jungle and mangrove forests, while tiny Taketomi is known for its carefully maintained traditional Ryukyu village.


Thanks to the pristine coral reefs that surround practically all the islands, scuba diving is the number one sports activity. Ishigaki is known for its manta rays, while Yonaguni's star attractions are hammerhead sharks and underwater ruins.


Yaeyaman luxuries: Steak and beer, Ishigaki

Yaeyama's best-known dish is the ubiquitous Yaeyama soba (八重山そば), which bears little resemblance to soba on the mainland: the Yaeyaman version consists of white wheat noodles in a mild pork-based stock, garnished with chunks of pork (sōki), some slices of fish cake and red ginger. Available everywhere for ¥400-500 a bowl.

The local beef is also renowned, although needless to say in Japan prime steaks don't come cheap. The tiny island of Kuro, in particular, is known for having more cows than people.

Some of the more exotic local fare on offer includes snake soup and mimigā, a salad of pork ear, cucumber and vinegar.


As elsewhere in Okinawa the tipple of choice is awamori, the best known local brand being Yaesen (八重泉), but Yonaguni is also known for its deadly 60° hanazake. In addition to the ubiquitous Orion beer, Ishigaki also houses a microbrewery.

Stay safe

Yaeyama poses no health risks apart from those found elsewhere in Okinawa. Use plenty of suntan lotion and don't insert your hands into holes in trees that make hissing sounds.


The Yaeyama islands have over 200 utaki (御嶽), also known as ogan or on, which are holy places for venerating the gods. Akin to low-key versions of Japanese jinja shrines, they usually do not have torii gates, but are instead marked off with low stone walls and Japanese signage. Don't venture inside.


The definitive reference to the islands is Nanzansha's Yaeyama Guide Book (やえやま GUIDE BOOK, ISBN 4876413886,, but alas, the only words of English in this yearly-updated tome are in the title. Still, the maps and thorough listings are invaluable, particularly for the smaller islands. Available in better bookstores throughout Japan for ¥1200, and older copies can almost always be found sitting around in Yaeyaman lodgings.

The free Yaeyama Navi (八重山ナビ) pamphlet with large, detailed maps is also quite good, but the listings inside are limited to paid advertisements.

External links