When it comes to Okinawa, Taketomi Island is not to be missed
Everyone should visit Okinawa at least once in their life, and many of those who do tend to stay on the main island of Okinawa.
But if you want to discover original Okinawan landscapes, head to the remote island of Taketomi.
The stone walls surrounding the houses are the most impressive feature of this island’s landscape.
Roofs covered with red tiles are contained within these stone walls, along with Shisa lion dog statues that sit quietly.
The white sand laid down on the village paths sparkles as it reflects the sunlight,
and contrasts against shima-zouri, colorfully decorated Okinawan sandals.
It’s not just people that use these paths.
The water buffalo, which play an essential role in the island’s tourism, also take leisurely walks while pulling tourists along in a cart.
Such a sight can only be seen on Taketomi Island.
Located 450 km southwest of Okinawa Main Island, Taketomi Island sits southwest of Ishigaki Island.
It’s so small that you can walk or cycle around the whole island, and there are no convenience or department stores.
The red roof tiles contrast against the blue skies, while the beautifully built stone walls are recognized as a historic landscape,
and as such have been designated as a national cultural asset.
Most of the islanders work in the tourism and service industries, and throughout the year,
they all work together on the island’s traditional events and festivals.
Access to Teketomi Island
There’s no airport on the island, so you will need to take a plane to Ishigaki Island and then transfer to a ferry heading towards Taketomi Island.
(Flights to Ishigaki Island are available from the following 8 airports: Narita, Haneda, Chubu Centrair, Kansai International, Fukuoka, Naha, Miyako and Yonaguni.)
Once you arrive at Ishigaki Airport, exit through the front entrance and head to the bus stop just to the left.
Take the bus heading towards Ishigaki Remote Island Terminal.
From the final bus stop, walk about 3 minutes and you’ll arrive at the ferry gates.
There’s also a bus that arrives directly at the ferry terminal, so make sure to use it if you have lots of luggage.
The ferry from Ishigaki Island costs 1160 yen for a round trip, and arrives at Taketomi Island in about 10-15 minutes.
When you arrive at Taketomi Island, the village is just a short distance from the port.
Most tourists head there on the island's free shuttle bus, but you can also walk to the village.
The road there is completely straight, but there’s a rustic atmosphere with lots of fields and cows grazing on the grass.
After walking for about 15-20 minutes, you’ll be greeted by the landscape of Taketomi Island
—stone walls and red tiled roofs gradually start to appear.
There’s a lot of nature until you reach the village, so it’s a quite a relief when you finally see those red tiles.
The island is so small it has a population of just 360 people, and there are more tourists walking around than there are locals.
1. Take a tour on a water buffalo cart
The number one recommendation of things to do on Taketomi Island has to be a tour on one of the water buffalo carts.
The free shuttle bus follows the arrival times of the ferries, and it will take you directly to the water buffalo cart stand free of charge.
If you want to take a ride in one of the two carts operating, first buy a ticket from the stand.
Also, if you buy a beer ready for your ride on the water buffalo cart, you can enjoy the views while drinking an icy-cold Orion beer!
Taketomi Kanko Center
Adults 1500 yen (Ages 12 and above)
Children 800 yen (Ages 3—11)
Infants One free child with one paying adult
Adults 1500 yen (Ages 12 and above)
Children 750 yen (Ages 11 and below)
We bought our ticket from the Taketomi Kanko Center, but the experience lasts about 30 minutes from either location.
(Taketomi Kanko Center where you can purchase a ticket for a water buffalo cart ride.)
As the water buffalo slowly walks along and pulls the cart, you can take in the townscape while the guide introduces you to the island.
During this 30-minute experience,
the guide also gives a live performance of famous Okinawan songs while playing the sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument.
As you listen to these songs, you'll find yourself arriving at the end of the tour.
Once the experience is over, you can also have your picture taken with the water buffalo that pulled the cart.
Here is a water buffalo with one of the friendly guides and a photographer.
2. Kondoi Beach
Kondoi Beach is quiet and has beautiful, white sandy beaches and cobalt blue waters.
It is located on the west side of Taketomi Island, and is a famous spot for watching the sunset.
There are toilets and showers available, so feel free to go swimming.
However, it’s quite painful if you go into the ocean barefoot as the coral is rough, so please be careful.
The waters on this beach are also shallow for some distance, so it’s not really suitable for adults to swim or snorkel here.
But because of this, children can play safely which makes it popular with families.
3. The island shop, Yunun-ya
There are two small, old-fashioned shops on the island that both sell sweets, drinks and ice cream.
In one of these shops, Yunun-ya, you can find an unusual bitter melon flavored popsicle.
Each popsicle is 100 yen and they sell a variety of unique flavors, including dragon fruit and citrus depressa,
a citrus fruit native to Okinawa that is also known as shiikuwasha, a citrus fruit native to Okinawa.
The bitter melon flavor has thinly cut slices of real bitter melon inside the ice, and yet it doesn’t taste bitter at all.
This is a refreshing popsicle with a crisp texture and nostalgic sweetness.
Give it a try if you have chance!
An Island full of charm
You can’t take a trip to Okinawa without visiting Taketomi Island, a place where you can relax and enjoy traditional Okinawan landscapes.
It’s a small island, so it’s also possible to take a day trip.
We stayed in a hotel on Ishigaki Island and then headed over to Taketomi Island for the day, but we were still able to fully enjoy it to our hearts’ content.
For those who want to take their time and relax, you can stay at a guest house or a hotel.
There’s a choice of 2 hotels and 9 guest houses where you can enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals.
If you do stay on the island, withdraw some cash in advance as the bank inside the post office is unavailable on Saturdays and Sundays.
That way, you’ll still be able to do some shopping if you see anything that takes your fancy.
This is the island’s only post office.
Taketomi Island has beautiful oceans, so the best time to visit is between May and August when you can go swimming.
If you want to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Taketomi Island, aim for September when the number of tourists has settled down.
The sun is strong from July to September, so make sure to protect yourself against heat stroke and stay hydrated.
This popular island attracts many tourists from both Japan and abroad, but the local islanders make great efforts to protect its landscapes.
There are rules in place, such as not making too much noise and no littering, so let's make sure to follow them while we enjoy our sightseeing.