Escaping Tokyo's rainy season, I spent three days and two nights travelling to Ishigaki, Kohama and Iriomote islands. The islands, with temperatures going past 30°C even in October, are recommended for anyone wanting to escape the stress of living in Tokyo or for overseas visitors looking for a unique Japan experience.
Let me introduce you to some of Iriomote Island's top spots and activities.
1. Hoshizuna Beach
I'd never seen such beautifully clear water before! The shoals here, with their multi-coloured tropical fish and coral reefs, are great to enjoy and will leave you speechless. The star sand here - hoshizuna - is so named because the sand at the beach is star-shaped. They're actually the shell remains of tiny living creatures that have been washed up onto the shore.
Don't forget your snorkelling and swimming gear or your underwater camera. Bandages or adhesive plasters are also handy as the rocky areas can cut or graze you.
The Milky Way is beautifully visible here throughout the whole year. The first of its kind in Japan, the islands are also likely to receive international recognition as an official Dark Space Reserve, a place free from artificial light.
3. Mangroves and canoeing
With 90% of Iriomote Island covered in jungle forest, thee aren't any of the usual sights, only a magnificent spread of nature. Completely surrounded by jungle, you'll feel as if you are in the Amazon. While you won't be able to see the rare Iriomote cat, found only on the island, come the night, you will be able to see fireflies.
Things to know when visiting
- There are no convenience stores or ATMs. It is recommended that you withdraw any money beforehand at the airport.
- There is a Post Office and Postal Bank ATM, however, they close early on weekends and national holidays.
- There are very few petrol stations.
- A rental car is indispensable on Iriomote Island. On Ishigaki and Kohama islands, taxis and buses are available.
- Places to eat are generally removed from hotels on Iriomote and Kohama. Most stores will have a free pick up and return service but it is advised that you confirm beforehand.
- Hotel Nirakanai have staff who speak Chinese and English as well as sponsored activities which are highly recommended.
Heading off to Okinawa and the remote islands was once the same as heading off to another world. But with their friendly people, delicious food and drink and superb scenery, you can't go wrong with a taste of Okinawa. Please come and see for yourself!