Iriomote Island (Iriomotejima) 西表島
Explore tropical landscapes, waterfalls, and mangroves on remote Iriomote Island
Iriomote Island is the largest of the Yaeyama Islands and one of the wildest places in Japan, with most of the island covered by dense, mountainous forest.
- Hiking and kayaking through the jungle
- A cruise up a jungle river
- A buffalo-cart ride to Yubu Island
How to Get There
Iriomote Island is accessible by ferry from Ishigaki Island .
High-speed ferries and infrequent car ferries operate between Ishigaki and Iriomote Island. It takes about 35 to 40 minutes to reach Ohara Port at the south of the island and 40 to 50 minutes to reach Uehara Port in the north. The ferries run every 30 to 60 minutes to Ohara and every one to two hours to Uehara.
There is only one coastal main road on the island, but it is possible to rent a car. This is easier than bringing your own vehicle since the car ferry only runs a few times a week.
Most of the tour companies run shuttle buses, which are the best way to get around the island.
Iriomote Island is the largest of the Yaeyama Islands and the second largest in Okinawa Prefecture after Okinawa Island itself
The island is the exclusive home of the Iriomote cat, an indigenous species of leopard that is critically endangered
The island's lush vegetation makes it an ideal habitat for wild habu, a venomous pit viper whose bite has a fatality rate of around three percent
Heading inward and upward
You will see some beautiful beaches in Iriomote Island, but they do not generally have lifeguards or public facilities. Also, the beaches are not protected with nets, so jellyfish can pose a hazard in the summer months.
Iriomote Island is best for exploring inland areas, hiking the trails to unspoiled waterfalls, kayaking through the mangroves, or taking a cruise up one of the island's rivers that thread through the jungle.
Allow a full day for a rigorous hiking or kayaking tour and one or two hours for a river cruise.
Island-hopping by buffalo cart
Tiny Yubu Island is separated from the east coast of Iriomote Island by a shallow, sandy strait. You can ride across to the island in a cart pulled by a buffalo while the driver plays the sanshin (an Okinawan stringed instrument) and entertains you with traditional songs.
The island also boasts a beautiful beach, Hoshizuna (star sand beach), named after the granules of sand shaped like stars, and botanical gardens, which is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.