Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima), which is approximately 9.2km in periphery, is an island that has developed its own distinct history and culture, cherishing the worship of nature and a faith paying respect to the ancestors, which are practices that have been handed down for generations since ancient times. The red-tiled roofing, the stone walls made by piling up coral reefs, and the Fukugi trees which have been planted for the protection from the wind and tides. This beautiful stillness has been preserved and inherited in the form of a national park.
In prewar Okinawa, many of the roofs of Okinawan homes were covered with characteristic red tiles; and on the roofs facing the main entrance were the traditional, fierce-looking shisa (lion-dogs), standing guard against anyone or anything that might cause harm to the household. Homes were typically surrounded by walls of coral, or red hibiscus known locally as gakabanah. This peaceful, unchanging scene described the general living environment that could be found in many areas throughout Okinawa for a great period of time.
However, the destruction caused by the war, and new styles of reconstruction afterwards, did a lot to change the face of much of the Okinawan residential landscape, leaving only the smaller outer islands of the Miyako and Yaeyama groups with the erstwhile quiet but still very scenic atmosphere. Taketomi Island is one location where residential lifestyles of the past can still be seen.
Lying six kilometers to the west of Ishigaki Island, Taketomi Island can be reached by a relatively quick ten-minute boat ride from Ishigaki Port. A political center for all the islands of Yaeyama during the Ryukyu Kingdom Era, this island was the location of the former living quarters and seat of government of Nishito, appointed chief administrator of the Yaeyama area by the Shuri court.
With the omnipresent, private, wooden homes and their red tiles and coral walls, with sandy streets and tropical flowers, Taketomi is a far cry from the main island of Okinawas crowded traffic and upshoots of concrete wherever you turn. To get about for sightseeing, most visitors rent bicycles or ride carts pulled by water buffaloes. Their destination points are the Folk Museum, the Kihoin Temple, and the Tomb of Nishito.
While on Taketomi, one shouldn?ft miss viewing the special Minsa cloth, used as a symbol by women to show acceptance of a marriage proposal, and a variety of other folk arts and handicrafts can be seen. Taketomi Island has been made a Preserve of Important Traditional Buildings by the Japanese Government.
White sand roads, traditional houses, and ox-carts all add to the atmosphere that can be found on Taketomi Island. The popular song Asadoya Yunta originated from this island. Taketomi Island is closest to Ishigaki port and can be reached within 10 minutes on a boat leaving every 30 minutes until 5:45pm, most ideal for a day’s tour. Taketomi is perhaps the most typical Okinawa island with its stone houses and characteristic roofs. The island fascinates with many hibiscus and deigo flowers around the houses pleasing the eye with an unforgettable colorful scenario. Also well known is the beautiful Kaiji beach, with star sand which is actually dried relics of small marine creatures and hard to find these days.
The barefoot experience is a program in which you can leisurely walk around the island with “Oji” and “Oba” as tour guides, visiting various sacred places called “Utaki” and treasure collection museums where you can find tools and folk art materials used by the local people. In one of these programs you can sit on a porch of one of the local homes and hear stories about the island while chatting with the local people. A sandy path where you can feel the wisdom and beautiful lifestyle of the local people runs through the villages, so try walking on the path with your bare feet and experience the touch of the sand.
Transportation and Getting to Taketomi
Getting to Taketomi Island is just a short 10 minute ride on the ferry from Ishigaki. You can purchase tickets from either Yaeyama Kankou Ferry or Anei Kankou Ferry. You can also get tickets from the Hirata Tourism office located right across from the ferry terminal. The Hirata Tourism also has an english map of Taketomi that is quite useful. The roundtrip price per person is 1100 yen. From 7:30am until 5:30pm, the ferries leave at 30 minute intervals.
Upon arriving at Taketomi, you can then walk into town, take the bus, or take free transportation to bike rentals/ox-cart rides. If you walk, just take the main road and walk for about 15 minutes. You will know when you have reached town. There is a bus that you can ride into town for 200 yen per person. If you would like to go on the tour bus, it is 1000 yen per person for 50 minutes (Taketomi Koutsu, 85-2154). If you are going to be renting a bicycle or taking the ox-cart ride, these companies will shuttle you to town for free. Their shuttles are usually waiting in the ferry parking lot. Most of the bicycle rental places charge about 300 yen per hour. As you get off the ferry, you will see a sign. If you go straight, it will take you to the bus stop. If you go left, it will take you to the free transportation for rental bicycles and ox-cart rides.
Services Available on Taketomi
Taketomi does not have very many stores. There are a few vending machines but it would be best to purchase and carry a drink with you from the ferry terminal. There is a full service post office in the middle of town.
Lodging on Taketomi
Taketomi is a small island so it is usually possible to see the entire island in one day. For those who want to relax, there are many small inns on Taketomi Island. A good place to stay is at Minshuku Nitta Sou. This is owned by the same company which offers the ox-cart rides. They also do bike rentals. Nitta Sou is 3000 yen per night or 5000 yen per night including two meals each day. You can make reservations by calling 0980-85-2201. The cost for the ox-cart ride is 1200 yen for adults and 600 yen for children. The ox-carts do not run during the two days of the Tanedori Festival. Here is a listing of places that are available:
|Takano Youth Hostel||85-2151|
|Taketomi Guest House||85-2555|
|Minshuku Uchimori Sou||85-2255|
- Stop by the newly opened Taketomi Visitors Center (see below)to read about the history and the customs of the local people. The Visitor Center features excellent video and music in their mini theatre. It also has self-explore design so their are many places and things that you can see and touch that will help you to learn about Taketomi.
Kondoi beach is located on west of Taketomi Island, which are filled with pure white sand. The highly transparent sea and the beach of stellar sands can be enjoyed fully. It is equipped fully with a shower, a toilet, etc., and is famous also for the beauty of the setting sun. Kondoi Beach is a perfect place to relax, soak in the sun, and have a BBQ. From the town area, it is about a 15 minute walk. The beach has shower and bathroom facilities. The water near the shore is very shallow and quite clean. A safe place to splash and play in the water. Good place to explore because you can walk out on the sand for quite a distance. If you walk far enough, you can find some very nice snorkeling spots.
Kaiji Beach is a rocky beach that is located west of Taketomi Island, and is well known as “The star sand beach”. Although it is not suitable for swimming since the flow of tide is quick, snorkeling can be enjoyed with many fishes near the big rock. To find star sand, open your hand and place your palm on the sand. When you lift it up, you should be able to find some star sand stuck to your hand.
The area is also home to the festival called “Tanedori”. Tanedori is a type of harvest festival that takes place once a year. It is a festival in which the villagers dance, sing, and also stage fake battles. An interesting part of Tanedori is when the women of the town participate in a type of wrestling match. They swing each other around using their arms. The festival is an excellent way to see the more than 600 years of history that has been passed on through the generations. This festival is usually held sometime in November.
The town has been preserved in the traditional style so it is worth walking around and exploring the area. Another must see stop is the lookout tower that is near the middle of town. Although steep and narrow, this lookout gives you a bird’s eye view of the town as well as an excellent picture spot. Be careful because the lookout’s steps are narrow and can be slippery. Many wild cats can be found on Taketomi Island. The population has grown so much that locals consider it to be a problem.
In the morning, as the sea breeze passes through the freshly awakened white path, the bougainvillaea flowers flutter up in the air. Change into some Shimazouri sandals, and begin your day on the island a leisurely walk. Searching for “Hoshizuna” (star sand) is one of the enjoyments of this island. Find some Hoshizuna while taking a walk along the quiet Kaiji Beach where even the kittens doze off to sleep.
After learning some background information about the nature, culture and performing arts at “Yugafu Kan” change into some Zori sandals, take a fan and take a stroll around the village.
“Yugafu Kan, Taketomi Island”, introduces the nature, traditional culture and performing arts of Iriomote National Park, Taketomi Island. With such things as big screen theaters, live recordings of traditional music, and artistic objects, you can enjoy learning about the spiritual culture, performing arts, and nature of the people that live on the island. The barefoot experience begins here.
The sandy path which is said to have good rainwater infiltration, and appears white from the moonlight even at night when there are no lights, continues throughout the village. It’s a small path that represents the wisdom and beautiful lifestyle of the people of the island. Experience the soft touch of the sandy path under your bare feet.
If you want to take your time in visiting the sacred places and ruins, try taking a stroll around the island with a local tour guide from the island. While harmonizing with the island’s largest “Tanedori Festival” and nature, you can get an idea of what life on the island is like through many different stories.
The history and lifestyle of the people of Taketomi Island is in the heart of the traditional folktales and folk songs of the island. Sit on the porch and listen to a local grandma talk while she mixes in some of the island’s dialect.
The Kihouin Collection Center is a historical and cultural collection center of Taketomi Island and was built directly next to Japan’s southern-most temple. The center has about 4000 items on display, which were collected by priests: tools, arts and crafts, and valuable historical documents from the “Jintouzei” period. Learn about the history of the island here from the curator.
After finishing the barefoot course, there are still things you can enjoy on the island. As optional plans, the microbus tour, the water buffalo ride, the rent-a-cycle, the glass boat, and the pottery experience are available.
The only micro tour bus on the island also provides a wheelchair tour. A very friendly driver will take you around the island. Of course the right of way is to the people and the water buffalo wagons.
There are no rent-a-cars or rent-a-bikes on the island. Go around the villages of the island on a water buffalo wagon. While listening to the sound of the wind, go around the island in the path of the water-buffalo, trying not to wake up the napping cats.
If you want to visit all of the small paths on the island, a rent-a-cycle would be a good idea. You can easily enjoy a loop around the island and conveniently keep your belongings on it if you want to go take a dip in the water. It’ll be hot so don’t forget your water bottle and cap.
Dining in Taketomi
There are many places to eat in Taketomi. All of the restaurants on Taketomi are small and family run. All of the restaurants are located in or near the town area. Take a stroll through town and enjoy some shaved ice and ice cream. An exceptionally delicious meal for lunch can be found at a restaurant called Taruriya.
It is located very close to the spot where the Tanedori Festival is held each year. This restaurant has a delicious meal which features kuruma shrimp. The shrimp is grown locally and the meal comes as a set. The shrimp along with the accompanying tartar sauce matches so well that it literally melts in your mouth. Sometimes this meal is not available due to the fact that the shrimp are seasonal.
Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima) Scenery:
The Taketomi Island Barefoot Experience
Date: Every day (Sometimes canceled due to the weather) Where to sign up: Tedoun Kariyushi Center Sign-up on the day: Until 9:30am Number of participants: 2~-20 people
Note: Dates and contents of programs may change. For details, contact the following.
Visitor’s Center Taketomi Island Yugafu Pavilion (Taketomi Yugafu-Kan)/ Taketomi Island Visitor Center, Iriomote Ishigaki National Park/ NPO Takidhun – NAPCOTI (National Association for the Preservation of the Culture of Taketomi Island)
Located near the East Port, the gateway to Taketomi Island, this building functions as the reference center of the Field Museum. It provides the most up-to-date information about Taketomi ,so please stop by when you visit the island. The “Taketomi Island Natural Education Walking Path” for hikers, highly recommended by the Ministry of Environment, starts from here. Address: Taketomi-cho (Taketomi Township), Yaeyama District (Yaeyama-gun), Okinawa Prefecture 907-1101, Japan Hours: 8:00~17:00 Closed: 12/29-1/3 Tel: 0980-85-2488 Fax: 0980-85-2489 E-mail: info@taketom ijima.jp