cover photo: The peculiar star-shaped sand (in bottle) of Taketomi Island, Okinawa
This is Japan: Land of Ancient Wisdom and Modern Precision A series
By: Amber Creighton
Photos By: Amber Creighton
This is the last and final segment of my travel adventure throughout Japan.
After the enlightenment of Hiroshima and the majesty of Miyajima Island, we traveled on to the tropical Okinawa Islands of Japan via ferries, trains, and planes.
Okinawa is a beautiful island chain composed of extremely diverse islands. I recommend a minimum of five days and four nights to properly experience these islands.
Our base was a resort with an ideal location on Ishigaki. Ishigaki has breathtaking beaches. There are treasure troves of hidden beaches and bays along the coast of this gem of an island. On land, Ishigaki offers outdoor activities such as exploration of historical sites, lighthouses, limestone caverns, and beautiful hikes. The crystal clear waters around Ishigaki have the prestige of being listed as the top 20 best places to dive in the world and also offer world-renowned snorkeling, jet-skiing, and many other fun water activities.
Kabira Bay is the most photographed location on the island and it’s easy to see why with the emerald waters, bright white sand beaches and views of Mount Omoto. Sukuji Beach is the best swimming beach on the island due to its soft sand. Some beaches here contain course coral sand and swimming is not allowed in the pristine waters of Kabira Bay.
Due to their remote location, the Okinawa Islands are not over-crowded and the majority of the visitors are from Japan. The island culture here is a laid-back combination of Japanese culture and the classic Pacific Islands. The sunrises and sunsets in the Okinawa Islands are gorgeous and are all unique depending upon where you choose to view them from.
In Ishigaki, there is a major urban center for all shopping and fine-dining desires. The Okinawa Islands are an indulgent, exotic treat not to be missed.
From Ishigaki, we island-hopped over to the island of Iriomote via ferry. Iriomote is an island jungle-reserve offering impressive waterfalls, jungle rivers, and nature hikes. It is encompassed by pristine and often deserted beaches with star-shaped sand and surrounding clear blue sea. Iriomote is one of the last locations of the original jungles of Japan.
We began our exploration of Iriomote by taking a jungle river cruise through the waters of the Urauchi River. These river waters are teeming with life including Bull Sharks; gigantic tropical fish (some grow to over 1.5 meters or 5 feet;) as well as mysterious creatures that are the focus of many local tales.
We next completed an epic hour-and-a-half return hike to a beautiful waterfall, where we played in the shallows with our toddler daughter. The jungles are alive with animals like the unique jungle cat of Iriomote, tropical birds, wild boar and a variety of indigenous creatures.
After our jungle river cruise was a satisfying Japanese lunch followed by bathing in the bathwater-warm sea and relaxing under the sun.
We then experienced a water buffalo cart ride through the shallows to a small separate tropical island dedicated to the traditional water buffalo cart experience.
The next day, we continued our island-hopping over to Taketomi. Taketomi is well known for its exquisitely preserved historical Japanese village. The best and most relaxing way to experience Taketomi is to ride bicycles around the island.
The village of Taketomi has coral walls and ornate latticed-buildings on sandy streets which are representative of the Ryukyu culture.
Its beaches are beyond beautiful and, like Iriomote, also contain the gorgeous star-sand unique to this part of the world. The waters are warm, crystal clear aqua blue and filled with tropical fish. The island of Taketomi is a perfect end to a perfect tour throughout Japan.
My main advice to enjoying travel throughout Japan is to utilize your sense of adventure, patience, flexibility, and open-mindedness. The beauty and diversity may overwhelm you at times, but the experiences will stay with you for a lifetime.