Today, I am taking you to the paradisiacal beaches of the subtropical islands of Japan: we go to Okinawa to discover the Yaeyama Islands, just next to Taiwan.
This trip was made in partnership with the airline ANA, best company to go to Japan and to travel within the country, as well as Okinawa OCVB Tourist Board.
THE OKINAWA PREFECTURE
Okinawa I think it must immediately remind you of a lot of things like beaches, nature, music, etc. But we often have a very limited image of Okinawa since we think it is a single island or a single group of islands: Okinawa Honto, the main island of Okinawa, with its capital Naha.
But the okinawa prefecture in fact more than 160 islands grouped into 3 archipelagos quite far from each other. There is no boat that connects the 3, you have to take the plane. In addition to the main island Okinawa Honto, there are Miyako Islands and the Yaeyama Islands with as main city Ishigaki, which we will visit this time.
When we talk about Okinawa, we are talking about 3 places that are quite different from each other: Okinawa Honto and its quite present American influence, Miyako and its many resort hotels and paradisiacal beaches and finally Yaeyama and its wild nature.
Historically, all of these islands developed independently for centuries before being unified to form the Ryukyu Kingdom, an independent and pacifist kingdom that traded with China and Japan. The kingdom of Ryukyu was then placed under Japanese rule in 1609 and then invaded and annexed by Japan in 1879.
The archipelago was the scene of a bloody battle at the end of World War II, losing more than a quarter of its population, then placed under American authority before being returned to Japan in 1972 while retaining the bases of the US military.
Okinawa is therefore, through its history, a place with a very particular culture different from the rest of Japan. There are several languages there which are not dialects but distinct languages from Japanese, each island group has developed its own language with different dialects between the islands of the same group.
ISHIGAKI, THE MAIN ISLAND OF THE YAEYAMA ARCHIPELAGO
Direction first of all the main island of the Yaeyama archipelago: Ishigaki. It is known for its superb beaches with in particular the bay of Kabira (where one cannot bathe on the other hand) as well as its Ishigakiyaki pottery with in particular the workshop Ishigaki Pottery Studio run by lovers of France who have received numerous distinctions for their works which are even exhibited at the Guimet museum. We can just experience creating a pretty plate or a Shisa, a kind of guardian lion dog who protects houses in Okinawa.
In the evening, you can enjoy a meal with good franquette accompanied by the very particular music of Okinawa played live. For this, I recommend the Usagiya restaurant which offers an exceptional atmosphere!
THE WILD ISLAND OF IRIOMOTE
Unmissable place during a visit to the Yaeyama Islands, Iriomote is an island located 1 hour by boat from Ishigaki. It is a very wild island, long remained uninhabited and 90% of primary forest with several endemic species, which are only found on this island as Iriomote’s cat (of which only a hundred remain today). This is the perfect place to enjoy the wild side of Okinawa, fill up on activities (Snorkeling, kayaking, hiking in the jungle) but also admire the stars!
The island of Iriomote is so wild that several villages located on the coasts are accessible only by boat. You can go there to enjoy a paradisiacal setting being almost alone in the world.
And for lounging after activities, the hotel Hoshino Resort Iriomote offers a very significant luxury with in particular a beach located just in front of the hotel.
THE ISLAND OF TAKETOMI, MY FAVORITEŒUR IN OKINAWA
Located just 10 minutes by boat from Ishigaki, Taketomi island is for me the most beautiful place to see in Okinawa Prefecture. It is a magnificent island which has preserved its charm and its culture. There is a village straight out of a Pokemon world with its coral reefs, traditional houses and white sand. The beach Kondoi Hama offers a calm and relaxing swim.
This is truly the must see place in Okinawa!
RETURN TO ISHIGAKI
Then return to the island of Ishigaki to once again enjoy its nightlife with again a musical restaurant but in a completely different style… The restaurant / bar Utamore is a true UFO, run by a family of eccentric musicians, all in a legendary franquette atmosphere!
For accommodation, I spent the night at Ishigaki Grandvrio Resort Hotel and its pretty, luxurious and spacious rooms.
LAST MOMENTS ON ISHIGAKI
It was then the moment to leave Okinawa … But just before that, I still went to visit the Ishigaki limestone cave as well as the restaurant Tofu Higa specializing in tofu with a very good franquette setting!
There you go, the Yaeyama Islands are far away my favorite part of Okinawa prefecture ! I liked Miyakojima and Okinawa Honto a lot but I really loved Yaeyama!