©Sho Kawai
©Sho Kawai
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A wild and mysterious jungle island - Iriomotejima, Okinawa

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Iriomotejima is the second largest island in Okinawa. Some say that it is the last unexplored island in Japan, with 90% of the whole island being a subtropical primeval forest, dense jungle and mangrove forest covering the island. These natural areas are part of the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park. There are inhabit wild animals, such as Iriomote wildcat, and rear plants on the island. The atmosphere here is definitely different from other remote islands in Okinawa. The rich natural environment that seems to have forgotten evolution is called "Oriental Galapagos." The wild and mysterious nature of Iriomotejima offers visitors ample choices of activities that bring unique, unforgettable memories. Don’t forget the fantastic beaches and the sea, which has the world's top-class clarity.  

Iriomotejima, Okinawa
Iriomotejima, Okinawa
Iriomote-jima, Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa, Japan

River, jungle trekking and waterfalls

©Flickr /  Kentaro Ohno
©Flickr / Kentaro Ohno

River activities are one of the must-do things in Iriomotejima to enjoy its amazing jungle. Supping and canoeing are very popular among active visitors. There are many tours to choose from, and you can usually book through your accommodation provider. Depending on the course, you will go through a river stream or walk in the forest, where is no walking track. If you are an adventurous and independent traveler, then rent a car and explore Iriomotejima yourself. Prior research is highly recommended to be able to enjoy Iriomotejima fully.

If you are not confident in your physical strength, you can enjoy the mangrove river by going on the cruising of the Nakama River. The cruising will take you along the mangrove forest, the largest mangrove basin area in Japan. There is no need for special equipment.

©Wikimedia / unknown
©Wikimedia / unknown

There are two gorgeous waterfalls to visit. One waterfall is called Kanpire Waterfall.  “Kanpire” means “The Seat of God.” Although there is little difference in elevation, small waterfalls are connected over a length of about 200m. Because of the rocky surface, you can walk close to the flow and enjoy the dynamic scenery up close. Another must-see waterfall is the Pinaisara Waterfall. Pinai means “beard,” and Sarah means “down.” “Pinaisara” represents a waterfall that falls like the beard of an old man. The 55m drop is the largest in Okinawa Prefecture. There is no direct car access to both waterfalls. It is common to go to the middle of the river stream by canoe and aim for a waterfall by trekking through the jungle.

Kanpire Waterfall, Iriomotejima
Kanpire Waterfall, Iriomotejima
Piraisara Waterfall, Iriomotejima
Piraisara Waterfall, Iriomotejima
Uehara, Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa 907-1541, Japan

Ultimate turquoise blue and magnificent beaches

©Sho Kawai
©Sho Kawai

Iriomotejima is famous for its ultimate turquoise blue sea. Many visitors come from all over the world to enjoy this ultimate nature magic. There are breathtaking beaches and a phantom island that offers incredible beauty. It is also a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.

©Wikimedia / 663highland
©Wikimedia / 663highland

“Star Sand Beach” is very popular for its star-shaped sand. In fact, this 'star sand' comes from mineral shells that are forming this beach. The beach filled with adorable star sand is something you would want to walk on. The sea at the Star Sand Beach is shallow, and the waves are calm so that you can spot beautiful fish by swimming and snorkeling very close to the foreshore.

©Wikimedia / Paipateroma
©Wikimedia / Paipateroma

“Ida no Hama” is a superb beach. Because there is no overland route, it is necessary to take a boat from Shirahama Port. It is definitely not convenient to access Ida no Hama beach, but it is worth the effort! The transparency and beauty of the sea is one of the best in Iriomote Island.

Hoshino suna hama, Iriomotejima
Hoshino suna hama, Iriomotejima
Uehara, Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa 907-1541, Japan
Ida no hama, Iriomotejima
Ida no hama, Iriomotejima

The phantom island, Barras

©Sho Kawai
©Sho Kawai

"Barras Island" is called the phantom island. It is a pure white island with a beautiful contrast of the clear blue sea. Barras Island is a place that is not written on the map of Japan. This small phantom island is made up of coral fragments broken by the flow of the tide. Barras Island is a fun island that changes its shape throughout the day. The size of the island shrinks and grows, and a shallow pool inside appears depending on the tide. Apparently, the island moves about 50cm in one year, because it is not fixed with rocks, earth, or sand.  You can visit from early in the morning and relax until the sun goes down - but keep in mind that it is crowded during the daytime. So I would recommend leaving before the sun goes down in the evening.

©Sho Kawai
©Sho Kawai

There is so much more to Iriomotejima, the mysterious jungle island. As Iriomotejima is a remote island of Ishigaki, on the very southern part of Japan, the access is not easy. However, once you arrive on the island, you will understand why it is called ‘Oriental Galapagos.’ The stunning turquoise blue sea with beautiful marine life and untouched wild jungle will welcome you. You will definitely wish to come back repeatedly at the end of your stay.   


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The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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